Muhammad Ali passed away a couple of days ago and we have heard and read much about this man since his death. Ali made his appearance in our lives and lore as Cassius Clay and died as Muhammad Ali, the name he took several years after we originally came to know him.
He was a consummate boxer; there was no equal for many years. He was a consummate showman; there was no equal for many years, if ever. He was a ‘lightning rod’ attracting all kinds of favorable and unfavorable publicity, both which he seemed to greatly enjoy. He was a boxer who coined the term “rope-a-dope”.
He was looked down upon for refusing to enter the Army when he was drafted and was banned from boxing for three years as the result of that stand. He was a friend to Presidents. He won the heavyweight championship three times.
Muhammad Ali was his own man even when that turned his fans against him. I find that I have changed my opinion of him several times since I became aware of the young Cassius Clay. I was and am pro-military and was very much opposed to his draft-dodging actions. On the other hand, he managed to overcome that feeling of mine and I found myself respecting him for his accomplishments as a boxer in spite of his being a draft-dodger.
I frankly don’t understand how I was able to come down on both sides of this person. It occurred without me spending much if any time intentionally/consciously thinking about changing from a person who resented his anti-military position and actions to a person who had apparently forgotten about that aspect of this physically remarkable and gifted human being.
He brought something to our time which we’d have missed had he not been here. He finally met a battle he was destined to lose; that was his battle against Parkinson’s which my mother also lost. For all his bombast and antics and draft-dodging, I will miss his presence and remember his boxing career and his politically improper actions as marks of this unique person.