Saturday June 4,
2016 - He is no more. One of the world's greatest in the
boxing ring joins the ancestors after 74 years on earth.
Farewell Muhammed Ali, farewell and thanks for your
contribution to sport and the continuing fight for
racial equality and respect.
woke up this morning to news that one of the greatest in
the world of boxing, in the world of sport, in the world
of civil rights, Muhammed Ali is no more having passed
on to the great beyond on Friday night.
The man who put the glamour, who made
people want to see boxing matches whether they loved the
sport or hated it is reported to have succumbed to the
ravages of Parkinson's disease that he fought and
endured for more than thirty years since he was first
officially diagnosed with the condition in 1984.
He had been admitted into hospital
suffering from what was reported as respiratory
The BBC had this
initial report on its pages.
"Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Ali shot to
fame by winning light-heavyweight gold at the 1960 Rome
Nicknamed "The Greatest", the American beat Sonny Liston
in 1964 to win his first world title and became the
first boxer to capture a world heavyweight title on
three separate occasions.
He eventually retired in 1981, having won 56 of his 61
Crowned "Sportsman of the Century" by Sports Illustrated
and "Sports Personality of the Century" by the BBC, Ali
was noted for his pre- and post-fight talk and bold
fight predictions just as much as his boxing skills
inside the ring.
But he was also a civil rights campaigner and poet who
transcended the bounds of sport, race and nationality.
Asked how he would like to be remembered, he once said:
"As a man who never sold out his people. But if that's
too much, then just a good boxer. I won't even mind if
you don't mention how pretty I was."
Ali turned professional immediately after the Rome
Olympics and rose through the heavyweight ranks,
delighting crowds with his showboating, shuffling feet
and lightning reflexes.
British champion Henry Cooper came close to stopping
Clay, as he was still known, when they met in a
non-title bout in London in 1963.
Cooper floored the American with a left hook, but Clay
picked himself up off the canvas and won the fight in
the next round when a severe cut around Cooper's left
eye forced the Englishman to retire.
In February the following year, Clay stunned the boxing
world by winning his first world heavyweight title at
the age of 22.
He predicted he would beat Liston, who had never lost,
but few believed he could do it.
Yet, after six stunning rounds, Liston quit on his
stool, unable to cope with his brash, young opponent.
This is one fight which got Sierra Leoneans following
the sport at the time glued to their radio sets as the
BBC and other available outlets informed the world of
the great event.
Muhammed Ali was later to tell BBC
interviewer Parkinson that he could hear Sonny Liston's
trainer telling him to get up and fight in the seventh.
Sonny Liston is reported by him to have told his trainer
that he was no fool and that he was not getting off the
stool on which he sat.
At the time of his first fight with Liston, Clay was
already involved with the Nation of Islam, a religious
movement whose stated goals were to improve the
spiritual, mental, social, and economic condition of
African Americans in the United States.
But in contrast to the inclusive approach favoured by
civil rights leaders like Dr Martin Luther King, the
Nation of Islam called for separate black development
and was treated by suspicion by the American public.
Ali eventually converted to Islam, ditching what he
perceived was his "slave name" and becoming Cassius X
and then Muhammad Ali.
Tributes have been flowing in from every corner of the
globe with the
international broadcaster CNN
reporting on this from President Barack Obama and the US
First Lady Michelle Obama.
President Barack Obama said he and
first lady Michelle Obama mourn Ali's passing.
"But we're also grateful to God for
how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a
while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest
chose to grace our time," the Obamas said in a
statement. The President said he has a pair of Ali's
gloves on display in his private study off of the Oval
Office, beneath a photograph of the legend.
Obama said Ali "fought for us." "He stood with King and
Mandela; stood up when it was hard; spoke out when
others wouldn't. His fight outside the ring would cost
him his title and his public standing.
It would earn him enemies on the left
and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to
jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped
us get used to the America we recognize today," the
President said in a statement issued by the White House.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, at a
ceremony honoring Ali on Saturday, said the boxer "lived
a life so big and bold, it's hard to believe that any
one man could do everything he did, could be all the
things that he became in the course of just one
lifetime." Fischer added, "Muhammad Ali belongs to the
world, but he only has one hometown. The 'Louisville
Lip' spoke to everyone, but we heard him in a way no one
else could -- as our brother, our uncle, and our
Don King, the boxing promoter who was every bit as brash
as Ali, told CNN that in his mind Ali will never die.
"His spirit will go on forever," he said. "He's just a
great human being, a champion of the people, the
greatest of all time."
The UK-based Guardian news outlet had
this grim opener -
Ali is dead.
"That is a sentence as difficult to
write as it is to comprehend. At his loudest and most
beautiful, he seemed, illogically, beyond destruction.
Even in his palsied state in the championship rounds of
his life, his eyes sparkled and his wit remained as
sharp as the punches with which he tormented nearly all
of his 61 opponents.
So imperious was he that those of us
who were entranced by him in the 60s and 70s hoped
against every rational expectation that he would never
leave the party, even though he had used up his
champagne moments a long time ago.
Ali, a born illusionist, teased us to
When the news arrived that Ali had died aged 74 in
Phoenix, Arizona, after a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s
disease, its inevitability did not soften the blow for
admirers who numbered in their billions. He lived in an
era of mass communication that led John Lennon to claim
the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ; Ali
made a compelling case to push them into third place.
Another international news outlet
us of Muhammed Ali's civil rights activism.
"However, Ali became much more than a colourful and
interesting athlete. He spoke boldly against racism in
the 1960s, as well as the Vietnam War.
During and after his championship reign, Ali met scores
of world leaders, travelled to promote Islam and for a
time he was considered the most recognisable person on
earth, known even in remote villages far from the US.
Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds, reporting from Los Angeles,
said: "Ali was a product of his time, of the civil
rights movement, of the Black Power movement. Coming of
age, he was the symbol of the emergence of that way of
thinking in the US.
"Things such as his conversion to Islam and his
opposition to the Vietnam War, made him more than an
athlete and a sports superstar. These made him more of a
Ali once estimated he had made $57m in his pro career,
but the effect of the punches lingered long after most
of the money was gone.
Ali's diagnosis of Parkinson's disease came about three
years after he retired from boxing in 1981.
His influence extended far beyond boxing. He became the
unofficial spokesman for millions of blacks and
oppressed people around the world because of his refusal
to compromise his opinions and stand up to white
National Public Radio,
NPR, has this reminder. ""I'm not only a fighter. I'm a poet; I'm a prophet; I'm
the resurrector; I'm the savior of the boxing world. If
it wasn't for me, the game would be dead," he said.
Young Clay made boxing an art form. He was an original,
a heavyweight who didn't move around the ring — he
danced. He'd thrill the crowd with his quick
scissor-step shuffle. On defense, he'd slip and slide,
Dundee said, and then flick that jab.
"He had a jab that was like a snake," he said.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee; rumble, young
Boxing reporters never had so much fun.
As the mouth roared, the victories started piling up,
all of it prelude to a 1964 battle against the big, bad
bear: heavyweight champion Sonny Liston.
Liston was a fearsome opponent. Nobody
believed the young Ali had a shot. But after six rounds,
Liston was done. He didn't come out for the seventh, and Clay was
the new champion.
"I am the king of the world! ... I'm pretty! ... I'm a
bad man! I shook up the world!" he exclaimed.
But the 22-year-old was just getting started.
Sunday May 5,
2016 - The BBC has now given details
funeral arrangements for the
A huge procession and funeral will be
held for Muhammad Ali on Friday to "allow anyone that is
there from the world to say goodbye", his family says.
The funeral will be in Ali's home city of Louisville,
Kentucky. Ex-President Bill Clinton will deliver a
eulogy. Comedian Billy Crystal and sports journalist
Bryant Gumbel are also expected to speak. The boxing
legend, 74, died on Friday of "septic shock due to
unspecified natural causes".
A private family service will be held on Thursday.
PS: In the ring, Muhammed Ali danced
his way around opponents, giving the impression that he
was some light weight boxer. No he was not. We are
talking about a heavyweight boxer and as those who
watched him fight can tell you, his reach was just
fantastic as he jabbed opponents in the head area.
Those jabs were from a heavyweight
boxer, enough to stun any ordinary man. At more than six
feet, (6ft 2.5in according to some records) opponents in
the ring soon realised that they had to reckon with a
giant. In all this, he was a sportsman.
George Foreman, his
opponent and later best friend said in an interview
after the passing away of the great man that when he was
going down during the eighth round of the Zaire fight
known as the Rumble in the Jungle, Muhammed Ali could
have finished him off with a follow up blow as he was
He did not.
Farewell the greatest. Rest in peace.