For as long as mankind has walked this planet, there is a rather exclusive number of men and women that have left everlasting legacies on the world they once inhabited. A legacy so empowering, so defying, that the loss of this figure left the earth standing still on it's very own axles.
On June 3rd, 2016, the world once again stood still.
See, Muhammad Ali doesn't lose. Don't let the five losses on Ali's record deceive you, the Louisville Lip refused to acknowledge any of that nonsense. Not when he captured an Olympic gold medal at the age of 18, not on his own death-bed at the age of 74. Ali's vocabulary was more colorful than a rainbow , yet "defeat" was nowhere in his oral arsenal.
"I'm young; I'm handsome; I'm fast. I
can't possibly be beat."
He defeated Sonny Liston. He defeated Joe Frazier. He defeated George Foreman. Social injustice, the U.S. Judicial System, racism, religious bashing, you name it, Muhammad Ali beat it. Even his bout with Parkinson's disease lasted a strong 32 years.
As great as Ali was, Father Time loses to nobody, not even the (anointed and self-proclaimed) Greatest of All Time. Such an odd feeling, to watch a man who lived in immortality, to be exposed as an ordinary human being. To be one of us.
Ali's death took to the liking of his jabs, dodges, and poetic rhymes: Perfectly timed.
For as violent as some portray the sport of boxing to be, the greatest to ever lace the gloves up had quite the contrasting views. In a time where our country is under heavy debate for practically everything moral, from bathrooms to religion, the passing of Muhammad Ali brings us back to his own ideals of peace, equality and freedom. Because not only is Ali a hero in the realm of boxing, but also in the ring of social justice as well.
We're talking about a man who lost three of his prime boxing years after he refused to be drafted in the United States military, who at the time was involved in the Vietnam War. A man who represented his country in the Olympics, brought home a gold medal and was still denied service at a restaurant, due to the color of his skin. A man who even had the FBI/NSA monitor all of his communication.
With all of the social flaws of his era, the only true way for Ali to convey his message was through the form of boxing.
And my, did we hear him loud and clear.
"Rumble, young man, rumble"
Though Ali wasn't as giant as the other heavyweight greats such as Frazier and Liston, what separated Muhammad from the pack was his speed. His hands left lighting in the dust. Ali often gained an advantage with a barrage of unstoppable punches, repeated over and over again. His footwork was magical, using his quick feet not only to slither his way around the ring to trap his opponent in a corner, but to also escape from the danger of punches as well. Should someone have the privilege to reach within striking distance of Ali, his ability to duck and elude swings with his upper body was second to none, and was on display often due to Ali's defensive style, which held his hands vastly lower than a typical fighter.
However, as Ali conquered the art of boxing, he is truly remembered for being an entertainer.You'll never come across someone so loud, so confident, so bold as Muhammad Ali. Yelling at his opponents during the fight, standing over their defeated corpse after a knockout, and even destroying the media for ever doubting him, that's what made Ali "showtime". Was Ali cocky? Cocky is an understatement. He mastered and perfected the craft of psychological warfare. His interviews and press conferences were cant-miss television, as Ali would boast about himself and trash his next victim, more often times than not, standing only a few feet away. His confidence was through the roof, so high in fact, that he would even predict what round his opponent would fall to him in. The scary part? Ali was right more times than not.
Of course Muhammad Ali was cocky. He was a showboat, he was a loudmouth. Yet nobody was able to silence him in the ring, and Ali knew that. When it comes to entertainment value, Floyd Mayweather would never come close. In fact, if Muhammad Ali were to box in this generation of fighters, Ali would obliterate Mayweather's Pay-Per-View records, and any other record that stood in his way.
Undoubtedly so, Ali is the greatest boxer to ever step between the ropes. Very seldom is an athlete agreed upon to be the greatest by fans and athletes of the sport, a trait sought after by many, but failed to grasp by all but one. As if settling for the greatest boxer of all time wasn't enough for the champion, many hold him to be one of the greatest athletes to ever grace the planet. And surely, if you were to ask Ali himself, he'd give you a million reasons as to why it's true.
Muhammad Ali was simply more than just a fighter. He was a caring, compassionate human being. Ali stood up to the establishment in an era where it was highly dangerous for a person of his color, religion, and social stature to do so. He was the voice of so many people who had none, the man who could inspire everybody and anybody, to stand up for what was right, to stand up for themselves, giving hope to those with none at all. The most recognizable man around the world, an icon not only for sports, but for humanity as well.
And so today, the world stands still as we lay to rest a legend gone too soon. Muhammad Ali has created an ever-lasting legacy on earth, with visuals of his superhero-like aura and echos of his words that will carry for generations to come.
Because he made all of us want to float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee.