by wjw on June 4, 2016

300px-AliRedSo, who was the greatest martial artist of the 20th Century?

Here’s a clue: he died last night.

There are always going to be arguments about who could beat who, under what circumstances, under what rules.  Maybe Joe Louis (or Joe Lewis) could have beaten Ali in the ring, maybe someone named Gracie or Silva could have beaten him out of it.

But those people didn’t change the world the way Ali did.  They didn’t speak truth to power the way Ali did.  They didn’t inspire millions the way Ali did.

He was, in his own words, the “onliest boxer in history that people asked questions like a senator.”  (For senators, though, they usually have to dumb the questions down.)

You wander around the world a little bit, you start to see the same faces everywhere, painted on walls or hung up in restaurants and markets and homes.  Bruce Lee, Bob Marley, and Muhammad Ali are everywhere in certain parts of the world.  Muhanmad Ali is worshiped by people born long after he retired.

“If your dreams don’t scare you,” he said, “they aren’t big enough.”

Ali dreamed big, walked big, talked big.  Millions followed in his wake.

“I wasn’t trying to be a leader,” he said. “I just wanted to be free.”  He managed to be both.

During the enormous controversy over Ali’s refusing the draft, and during the years when Ali wasn’t allowed to practice his profession, Bill Russell said, “I’m not worried about Muhammad Ali.  I’m worried about the rest of us.”

Yeah, me too.

Ralf T. Dog June 6, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Politically, he was ahead of his time. In some ways I guess, he was at the exact time he needed to be. In an earlier time, the establishment would have shut him down. In an earlier time, I don’t think the Demos would have listened to him. If he had come later, someone else would have stepped into his role.

Privateiron June 13, 2016 at 4:13 am

The timing could not be worse. Great speeches of interfaith and intercultural support at his funeral, inspiring hope and not hate. Then Orlando. I am not naturally a conspiracy guy and I doubt there is one here either, but damn!!

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