Muhammad Ali is the greatest boxer of all time, according to a new poll.
The late Ali came up trumps over Julio Cesar Chavez, Floyd Mayweather and Sugar Ray Robinson to bag the top spot over at TopEndSports.
While many good points were made for the others, most came to sing Ali’s praises.
I’ve never ever seen the likes of an athlete such as Ali. He not only was great, he had style and grace. He was Michael Jackson before Michael Jackson. You could watch hours of just him.
The Ali shuffle was breath taking. I’ve seen movies; I’ve watched Sugar Ray Leonard, but no-one to date could emulate that move …
And though it was an entertainment to us, it was a boxing strategy for him. Leonard did it just to entertain us, Ali did it to confuse the opponent.
A product of Jim Crow America, Ali – born Cassius Clay – etched his name in American history long before his death in 2016. And he did so by never falling prey to the sweetening invitations of phonies, opportunists, or even old age, staying as true to himself right until his dying day.
He would never accept the status quo, lending his voice to the civil rights movement well into the modern days of Trayvon Martin and Black Lives Matter, long after Parkinson’s disease had muted him.
One instance from his childhood saw him visiting a five-and-ten-cents store for a drink of water only to be refused because of the colour of his skin. The pent up anger of being brought up in a segregated and discriminating US would eventually be his making.
After being referred to gym owner Joe Martin by a policeman who was taken aback by Clay’s anger following a bike theft, he tore through the amateur ranks and ended up representing the US at the 1960 Rome Olympics, bagging a gold medal at just 18-years-old. Cassius Clay and Martin’s relationship would disintegrate soon after.
The young maverick then went under the wing of the Louisville Sponsoring Group, going on to defeat Charles ‘Sonny’ Liston aged 22 on February 25, 1964 – one of the biggest upsets in the sport’s history – making him heavyweight champion of the world.
Shortly after the fight, Clay converted to Islam taking the name Muhammed Ali. Over the course of the the next 10 years, Ali would achieve a God-like status among his admirers and a villainous reputation to the authorities who took umbrage with his opposition to the Vietnam War.
His final fight came in December 1981, a loss to Trevor Berbick. Unbeknown to him until a 1984 diagnosis, the jaded boxer was experiencing the early symptoms of Parkinson’s, a disorder affecting the motor system.
At the time, Ali was told he would likely have 10 years max to live. He managed 32. Although gradually stunted and quietened over the course of the last three decades of his life, he continued to appear publicly, embracing his biggest and longest fight with dignity.
He refereed at the inaugural Wrestlemania, pep-talked Mike Tyson prior to his 1986 victory against Trevor Berbick and appeared at both the 1996 Atlanta and 2012 London Olympic games, lighting the cauldron with a now visibly trembling hand at the former.
During a 21-year career, Ali won 56 fights and lost five. He was and remains the idol for hundreds of boxers all over the world.