THE PASSING OF MUHAMMAD ALI: THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME

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The last of the greatest heroes has passed away on June 3, 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona due to respiratory problems and septic shock. Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky was the “Greatest of All Time” not only in terms of his athleticism inside the boxing ring, but more so for his activism outside the boxing ring. Thus, to be the greatest is to be god and the only thing greater than mortals are immortals.

Muhammad Ali was bigger than life as he was a god having a human experience on earth. As a matter of fact, this particular philosophical concept of god having a human experience as coined by Professor James Small was articulated to the “Greatest” by the “Best.” Malcolm X introduced to Ali that the Blackman was god and that whites were devils. With that particular association and insight, Ali in 1964 at the age of 22 would not only upset Sonny Liston to capture the world heavyweight championship, but he would upset the white establishment to capture the mind and heart of Black America and the rest of the world.

For their association, mass global appeal, ubiquitous socio-political influence, and critical insight regarding global white supremacy, Malcolm X would pay with his life and Ali would pay with his career and health. As such, the powers that be silenced Malcolm X with lethal projectiles and Ali with life-changing prescription drugs. Similarly to Malcolm X’s assassination, the powers that be devised a demonic plot to destroy Muhammad Ali by stripping him of his world heavyweight championship title and the right to make a living as a top prizefighter due to his Black militancy and refusal to fight the war in Vietnam. At the prime of his life, Ali was not fighting in the boxing ring, but outside of it. Ali continued to upset the white establishment by his pro-Black stance, Nation of Islam affiliation, outspokenness against the Vietnam War and racial injustice, and his proclamation that he is the “Greatest” – simply, god having a human experience.

With mounting political pressure and growing public support, Ali returned back to the boxing ring as a contender not as the heavyweight champion of the world – that title belonged to ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier. During the Fight of the Century at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971, Ali, while hitting Frazier with rapid successive left jabs and right crosses, expressed to ‘Smokin’ Joe that “don’t you know I’m God.” And ‘Smokin’ Joe replied with a fury of punches and by stating, “well God, you are going to get whipped tonight.” On that night, no man or god would have beaten ‘Smokin’ Joe as Frazier knockdown Ali with his famous devastating left hook in the 15 round to win an unanimously decision and retain his world heavyweight championship belt.

Ali would ultimately regain the world heavyweight championship belt by defeating George Foreman on October 30, 1974 in the Congo at what was racially dubbed the Rumble in the Jungle. Ali would then lose his title to Leon Spinks – only to regain it in a rematch with Spinks – making him the first three times heavyweight champion of the world.

Duplicating the graceful and flamboyant boxing style of Panama Al Brown, the first Hispanic world boxing champion, Ali had a very successful boxing career with 61 professional boxing matches - only to lose to Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Leon Spinks, Larry Holmes, and Trevor Berbick. Ali claimed that he had absorbed 29,000 punches throughout his professional boxing career. But, the most devastating blow in Ali’s illustrious career came not from Liston, Frazier, Foreman, Norton, Lyle, or Shavers, but from Parkinson.

At the age of 42, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and at the age of 74, while battling Parkinson for 32 years, Ali succumbed to respiratory problems and septic shock on June 3, 2016. Hana Ali, one of Muhammad Ali’s daughters, reported that all of his organs failed, but his heart kept beating for 30 minutes.

Therefore, what made Ali the “Greatest” was his heart – his ability to beat the odds – his ability to comeback from defeat – his ability to never quit even if floored by a punch or the powers that be – his love for humanity even though most of humanity did not love him when his hands and mouth were not only fast, but formidable.

Ali is no longer god having a human experience; he was the self-proclaimed greatest mortal experiencing immortality and that god-like experience led him to Malcolm X, a world heavyweight championship title, and as the most recognizable human in the world. Globally, we do not have universal figures like Ali any more undergoing immortality, in its purest configuration and sojourn, which is simply god having a human experience.

Muhammad Ali is survived by his brother, Rahman Ali; wife, Yolonda Williams, and nine children: Laila Ali, Rasheda Ali, Hana Ali, Asaad Amin, Maryum Ali, Jamillah Ali, Khaliah Ali, Muhammad Ali Jr., and Miya Ali; and several grandchildren.

The public home-going of Muhammad Ali will be held this Friday in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

May “The Greatest” rest in peace and power!

Patrick Delices is a political analyst/commentator for the Black Star News and the author of “The Digital Economy” in the Journal of International Affairs. Patrick Delices has taught Africana Studies at Hunter College and served as a research fellow for the late Pulitzer Prize recipient, Dr. Manning Marable at Columbia University. Patrick Delices can be contacted at pdelices@gmail.com. Please visit his website at www.patrickdelices.com.

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