Posted on June 6, 2016
Ali recently passed away and the self-proclaimed greatest leaves a gap in showmanship that is likely never to be filled. In truth, he left us a long time ago as Parkinsons disease had already stolen the speed of mind and body which entertained us for so long.
I personally do not think he was the greatest boxer of all time but he was involved in some great fights especially in the 70’s when Foreman and Frazier were challengers. Ali was never the biggest puncher but was extremely mobile and had incredible fast hands. It has to be noted that he was involved in some fights at his peak that just take your breath away when watched even now. He also took on a lot of men much smaller than himself and got pushed the distance which back then was 15 rounds. He lost a number of times but also bounced back. It is also hard to forget the punch that never was that seemingly knocked Sonny Liston out. Clearly it did not land and was a fixed fight but I suspect the Mafia may have had a hand in that and perhaps we should not blame the boxers themselves.
It is not inside the ring that I criticise Ali as he was one of the best in his era but outside with his views is a different matter. Some of those views also belonged to a different era and coming from his background it is easy to see where they came from but if said today then the world would erupt with offence. What’s more if a white man said those things Ali said then there would be riots.
Ali was quoted and recorded saying that he felt homosexuality was a white man’s disease. He strongly disapproved of mixed race marriages and was heavily influenced by an extreme version of Islam which I think was called the Nation of Islam. He later left them and I assume that was maybe where his bigoted views began to change. Sentences like “If a black man sleeps with a white woman then he should be killed” would have damaged his career if said later in life.
The racist remarks and bigotry were all said back in a time when people were not so easily offended as they are today and I think it is clear he was heavily influenced by extremists and the way he saw the black people being treated back then and some anger was clearly a result of that.
Ali managed to mask a lot of his bitterness through humour and people were naturally drawn to him. He is forgiven by the masses now and he did leave in fairness a lot of that controversy behind.
There are of course other aspects of his life that could be pondered like his refusal to fight for his country and stating that “White man sending black men to fight yellow men” was not his fight. He served his sentence for that but there must have been many a soldier that felt negative about that attitude.
It just remains to be said that controversial as he was we have lost an icon. Yes, he was racist in his early days but it was a different era and it is easy to judge it from today’s standards. I hope that his family are allowed to grieve in the normal way but I sense the lawyers are already sharpening their knives in preparation for long drawn out legal battle on who gets what from his $80 million legacy.