Muhammad Ali


One of my favourite people is Muhammad Ali.

He's a person who lived true to himself and to peace. He defied the US government in his refusal to be inducted into the army to fight a war that was both against his religion (at the time, the Nation of Islam) and his personal belief ('I ain't got no quarrel with them Vietcong.')

What can you give me, America, for turning down my religion? How can I lose for standing up for Islam when presidents and princes invite me to their countries, when little people all over the East and Africa stop me in the street to say "Eat at my house, brother, be an honor if you stay with us, brother?"

You want me to give up all this love, America? You want me to do what the white man says and go fight a war against some people I don't know nothing about-get some freedom for some other people when my own people can't get their's here?

You want me to be so scared of the white man I'll go and get two arms shot off and 10 medals so you can give me a small salary and pat my head and say, "Good boy, he fought for his country?" Every day, they die in Vietnam for nothing. I might as well die right here for something.

His trainer Angelo Dundee's official statement on Ali's position "I'm not in any position to say what was right and what was wrong about his stand on the draft. All I know is that it cost him a heck of a lot more to stick to what he believes than it will ever cost most men."

The cost? He was stripped of his title as World Champion, his passport was revoked, and he was indicted by the US Justice Department on a felony charge. Eventually, he fought his way back. Over the course of 2 1/2 years, the people of America's view changed from seeing him as a traitor to respecting his position as the war dragged on. His professional status was reinstated allowing him to box again. His court case went to the US Supreme court where he won by a unanimous decision; the government could not force him to war due to his religious belief. He fought his way back to World Champion. All through out his career, he was a charming and entertaining brat with a good heart! How could someone not like him!!

Now, boxing and anti-war seem to be antithetical. I'm not really sure how it works out. Part of it is the lack of government involvement. It is two individuals choosing to 'fight it out', not being ordered to kill. I can't say I'm a big fan of boxing but I do know in previous decades, boxing was an incredibly respected, 'manly' sport. Football has taken it's place. I'd rather watch boxing any day! 2 individuals, fighting one on one, nearly naked versus a bunch of guys wearing padding and steel head banging each other. It seems much more real.

Muhammad Ali may have retired from boxing but he has never stopped vocalizing his concern for humanitarian causes, most recently posting a statement on the tsunami. He has won awards and titles beyond boxing. He has a personal webpage, visit him! Muhammad Ali

Another way I respect Muhammad Ali is his struggle with Parkinson's disease. I've heard there was talk of it relating to boxing injuries. I don't know if this is true. My grandmother had Parkinson's disease. As far as I know, she never boxed, but she was the greatest! She spent the last 10 or so years in a wheelchair, needing assistance for most activities. Her mind was active but she was physically disintegrating. It was difficult for a proud woman and it humbled her.

And as I write this, I find out that tomorrow, January 17, is Muhammad Ali's birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!