Tuesday, June 07, 2016


Ali Has Left the Building

Muhammad Ali passed away this week and is mourned by people he touched throughout the world. No matter where he went, he was surrounded by fans who adored him.

Born in 1942 in Louisville Kentucky, he was named after his father Cassius Marcellus Clay. They were both named after a staunch Republican abolitionist from the 19th century. His father painted billboards and signs, and his mother was a household domestic. He descended from slaves in the American south, and grew up in an area of racial segregation. He was once denied a drink of water at a store. That irked him greatly.

Occasionally, his temper flared. When his bike was stolen, he was furious. Fortunately, a Louisville police officer and boxing coach, Joe Martin, directed him to a gym in the basement of a school. That is where he learned the trade.

Although it is seldom noted, Ali had great physical gifts which suited him to the ring. He had height, and a rock solid physique. He had quick hands, and quicker feet. He could take a punch, and show patience. To all competitors, he was the most infuriating opponent they ever faced.

Before a fight takes place, there are occasions when fighters just happen to be in the same room. It might be for a weigh-in, or simply an opportunity for the media to grab a note or two to hype the fight. Ali relished those opportunities, and always dominated those occasions.

He would announce that he was going to “Float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee”. He often denounced opponents as being ugly, and that the champ had to be beautiful. “Ain’t I pretty?” he would ask.

He was branded with many names throughout his career, one being “The Louisville Lip”. As a prize fighter, he just would not quit taunting opponents, increasing the popularity of a fight. He acknowledged that he had watched “Gorgeous George”, a popular wrestler from The Fifties, and adopted some of his shtick. George, with his beautiful blond flowing locks, wrestled for years around the world. George atomized the ring with perfume, and often gave orchids to the ladies.


                                                    Gorgeous George

Prior to his professional career, Ali won a gold medal at the Rome Olympics in the Light Heavyweight division. Francesco de Piccoli was the Heavyweight champ, never to be heard from again. As a pro, Ali’s record was 56 wins, 5 losses. His final loss to Canadian Trevor Berbick was not pretty, nor were his losses to Larry Holmes and Leon Spinks near the end of his career.

In 1966, Ali refused to be conscripted into the American military, at that time involved in Vietnam. He was stripped of his titles, and found guilty of draft evasion. The conviction was overturned in 1971.

There are many wonderful movies and documentaries about Ali. He even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was placed vertically, not horizontally, according to his directions. He did not want people walking on his name.


The question always arises as to whether or not he was the greatest of all time. Very difficult to answer, Certainly, Rocky Marciano comes to mind as a great heavyweight champion. He won all 49 of his fights, and his career was tragically cut short when he was killed in a car accident.


Joe Louis, “The Brown Bomber”, knocked out James Braddock to win the title. He then defended the title 25 times successfully over a 12 year period. Louis later earned a few extra dollars in the wrestling ring as a referee, even at the Memorial Arena in Belleville.


Another former Heavyweight champ also worked the wrestling ring in the small towns. Jack Dempsey fought 64 times, winning 49 by knockout. His most memorable bouts were against Gene Tunney and Jack Sharkey.

James Hurst

June 7, 2016.

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