“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, hospitalised a brick; I’m so mean I make medicine sick.”
The specialty of these words is not that they are outrageous but that they are words of confidence. It speaks about the vigor of a person. Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. born in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17, 1942, was well to become one of the most influential and inspirational figures in the world. Clay began the training as a boxer at the age of 12 and by the age of 18, he debuted as a professional boxer. Winning his first bout in a six round decision, he went to winning 19 matches in a row which included 15 knockouts for 3 more years. On February 25, 1964, Clay fought his first heavyweight championship match against a dominating fighter Sonny Liston with a massive record. Clay won the match 7-1 as an underdog. It is said that Liston was stemming with fear and commentators were apprehensive about him turning up for the match.
“Cassius Clay is a name that white people gave to my slave master. Now that I am free, that I don’t belong anymore to anyone, that I’m not a slave anymore, I gave back their white name, and I chose a beautiful African one.”
Hence, the name changed to the one the world knows the “Greatest” by, Muhammad Ali. In 1966, the outspoken person that he was, Ali declined the constriction into the U.S. Military being dead against the war that U.S. had begun against Vietnam. This got him into trouble and he was jailed and stripped off of all his titles. By the time he came out of all legal troubles, he was out of action for nearly 4 years. These incidents made him a sensation, especially among the youth. In a comeback match in the U.S. against a dominating “hard puncher” Cleveland Williams which drew a record-breaking crowd of 35,460 Ali won the match in the third round. On February 6, 1967, was fought “one of the ugliest boxing match” when Ali fought against Terrell who was unbeaten for 5 years and wanted to not just knock out Ali but “torture” him. The match lasted for 15 rounds after which Ali was unanimously declared as a winner.
Muhammad Ali won the heavyweight championship title thrice in his career in 1964, 1974 and 1978. “The Greatest” retired in 1981. He was often denoted as outlandish and even provocative at times but it was his standout confidence in himself which made him a legend.
Muhammad Ali’s death at the age of 74 has left us with moments and words which are going to inspire at least a generation more. His will power and outspokenness made him an icon for not only the young but for anyone who seeks inspiration. Leave alone a boxing match, just reading one quote of him can ignite a wildfire inside one to push limits every single time and succeed. We hail this “Champion” who remains invincible in our hearts forever.
Shah Rukh Khan gives the best ever tribute to the legend –
“So he no longer inhabits a place too small for his mind, too slow for his feet, too unclean for his heart… is perhaps better. He dies unbeaten.”