Famous Fighter of the Week: Muhammad Ali

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By Matthew Baker

Is there anything new to be said about the most famous person on the planet? This is not hyperbolic. Photographs were brought to illiterate tribes in the Congo. Pictures of Jesus Christ were not recognized but, when shown the face of Muhammad Ali, the tribesman pointed at shouted “Ali!!” The proud and brilliant fighter, born Cassius Clay in Louisville, KY, and known throughout the world as The Greatest, truly is the most legendary boxer in the history of the sport.

Best known for his flare, his strength, his pride, and his unstoppable mouth, Ali is perhaps underrated for two other qualities: his smarts and his honor. In spite of his prowess, he hated training but always reminded himself “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” When his famous dancing legs were weakened, he invented his “Rope-a-Dope” style that waited for an apparently dominant opponent to tire before coming in to finish him off. Meanwhile, outside of the ring, Ali has famously put his religion before personal gain or comfort. More has been written about his legendary comment, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong” than any other single quote in sports history. Today, at a time when many in the U.S. think of Islam as “un-American” and many in the Muslim world speak of the U.S. as “the Great Satan”, how glorious it is that one of the most admired heroes anywhere is an American Muslim.

After an amazing career that includes an Olympic Gold Medal, two Golden Gloves victories, and championship wins over Smokin’ Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, George Foreman, Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, and other legends, Ali now suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. Never one to be kept down, he continues to learn from his difficulties: “A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” Well said, champ. As always.

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