June 4, 2016

Obligatory Cassius Clay farewell post..


I did not start out liking Muhammed Ali. In fact, I rooted earnestly for Sonny Liston to kick the shit out of the draft-dodging sumbitch and teach him a lesson in the process - even after Liston had beaten Floyd Patterson to become the champ. When Liston failed did not come out for the seventh round I was crestfallen that we'd be stuck with this loud-mouthed, egotistical peace creep,

But, in fairness, that was the limit to my excursion into professional boxing. Like golf, I did not care for the sport of boxing, being only passingly interested in Olympic boxing from that point until I swore off the Olympics in the 90s as being a political shit-show for professionals from ALL countries. (What tore it for me were the U. S. professional basketball players competing which, as far as I was concerned, stripped away all pretense of amateur sports. But I wander far afield.) Anyway, the carnival that was the W.B.C. Heavyweight title carried on in the sixties and seventies with Ali driving the clown train with his pre-fight theatrics and showmanship.

And, surprisingly, what was originally a turnoff, began to eat away at me as I actually looked more closely at the man and his skills. I gradually came to the realization that "it ain't bragging if you can actually do it". Still not a fan of his but an admirer of his talents and skills, it took an alliance with another egotist I originally had no time for - Howard Cosell - that I came to realize that Ali the man was a rather unique individual.

By the time that he fought his last championship fight in 1978, it became apparent that he was, underneath the braggadocio, a truly kind and tender human being.

Truthfully, I fell in love with the act that was Muhammed Ali.

As the years wore on, I would see him in various appearances, warmly clowning with Cosell or other media types and, although he lacked the literacy of his media foils, he could hold his own. (To Cosell: "Whatever truculent means, if it's good then I am that!") And there were always those endearing, shuffling pantomimes of Ali and the host trading playful jabs.

In the recent years, I came to learn how he had been a stupendous good will ambassador through out the world and how he used his fame and fortune to help raise up others less better off.

Sometimes people pass away and you do not realize how wonderful they were when they were here. As the praises and remembrances for this man rolled across the TV, radio, and internet, I found myself choking back a tear here and there.

Truly, the world was a better place for him having been in it and truly it is less so because he is gone.

Rest in peace, champ!

No comments: