Muhammad Ali was the most thrilling if not the best heavyweight ever, carrying into the ring a physically lyrical, unorthodox boxing style that fused speed, agility and power more seamlessly than that of any fighter before him.
But he was more than the sum of his athletic gifts. An agile mind, a buoyant personality, a brash self-confidence and an evolving set of personal convictions fostered a magnetism that the ring alone could not contain. He entertained as much with his mouth as with his fists, narrating his life with a patter of inventive doggerel.
Ali was as polarizing a superstar as the sports world has ever produced — both admired and vilified in the 1960s and ’70s for his religious, political and social stances. His refusal to be drafted during the Vietnam War, his rejection of racial integration at the height of the civil rights movement, his conversion from Christianity to Islam and the changing of his “slave” name, Cassius Clay, to one bestowed by the separatist black sect he joined, the Lost-Found Nation of Islam, were perceived as serious threats by the conservative establishment and noble acts of defiance by the liberal opposition.
Loved or hated, he remained for 50 years one of the most recognizable person on the planet.
The Champ went through troubled times when he refused to go to Vietnam as a soldier. “I am not going to fight those Vietcongs. They never called me a Nigger! ”
Ali became an object of hate for the White chauvinists. They labelled him anti-national! He was stripped of his title and awarded a 5 year prison term that was subsequently quashed by the Supreme Court.
“My enemy is the white people, not Vietcongs or Chinese or Japanese,” Ali told one white student who challenged his draft avoidance. “You my opposer when I want freedom. You my opposer when I want justice. You my opposer when I want equality. You won’t even stand up for me in America for my religious beliefs and you want me to go somewhere and fight but you won’t even stand up for me here at home.”
Ali was a man of his convictions. He fought the white dominance both inside and outside the ring.
This phase of the American history was akin to the current hysteria in Malaysia of labeling anyone and everyone an anti-national by the affluent section of the society, if it doesn’t suit their diabolic game plan. The political elite are pushing jingoism, would like us to believe that the political elite is above the Rakyat even in a democracy!
See here another beautifully written piece on the Champ https://selvarajasomiah.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/muhammad-ali-he-is-simply-the-greatest/