Saturday, 4 June 2016

Muhammad Ali.

There's only one thing to write about this morning - the greatest boxer of all time, the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, Muhammad Ali, died last night. 

To anyone growing up in the 1960's or 1970's, whether you were a boxing fan or not, Ali was one of the most important people of the era.

Stylish,, that was Ali.

He wasn't just a boxer, he was the greatest.

The thing is that sport isn't just about winning, although Ali was a winner. It's about a story, about the struggle.

So when Ali returned home with a gold medal from the Rome Olympics, the restaurant where he stopped to eat wouldn't serve him because he was black. This was something that he would never accept and when in 1996 he was drafted to fight in Viet-nam he refused to go;  "I ain't got nothing against no Viet Cong; no Viet Cong never called me n*****r."

Stripped of his passport, his boxing licence and his world title, Ali campaigned and lectured against the war and racial injustice until 1971 when The City of Atlanta Athletic Commission allowed him to fight again.

That he won the title back in 1974, beating George Foreman in 'The Rumble in the Jungle' after losing four years when he was at his physical peak, was just unbelievable;

 "I've done something new for this fight. I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick; I'm so mean I make medicine sick."


Here in Britain, Ali did a series of peak time television interviews in the 1970's which challenged white supremacy and racial prejudice like no one else could; full in your face and up for it. Nothing would ever be the same again.
He polarised the country; the right wing press attacked him but he started a process that changed everything.....someone wouldn't take it any more and what are you going to do about it?

So I salute Muhammad Ali, Boxer, Champion and Fighter for Justice - The Greatest.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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