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Sat Jun 4, 2016, 05:16 PM

We have lost "The Greatest" but his legacy will endure forever

I first saw him dancing across the Olympic boxing ring when I was very young, and I could not take my eyes off him. He was mesmerizing. As a young sports enthusiast, I loved basketball, volleyball, many competitive activities but absolutely not boxing. It was just too violent. Yet here I was watching a man dancing across the boxing stage "floating like a butterfly but stinging like a bee." I followed his career the rest of my life, and he became a superhero to me in many, many ways.

Not the least of these ways by any means was his willingness to protest the Vietnam War by refusing to serve. What type of person does something like that when he or she is at the top of his game and stands to lose everything? A humanitarian does that.

In 2008, during the election, I wrote a piece and posted it here. It received some attention away from this site. I knew this when the election was called, and Chris Matthews remarked to the panel words to the effect that Obama was floating like a butterfly but stinging like a bee, and they all laughed. The piece I wrote compared similarities between these two great men who came out of nowhere and against all odds ended up sitting on top of the world.

I would like to share that thread with you in case you missed it. Here are the first few paragraphs and a link to the rest. I still have the two pictures mentioned in the thread proudly hanging on my hallway wall, and I count them as true treasures.


From: Political Sporting Comments from Inside the Beltway, May 17, 2008

He danced across the Olympic boxing stage more quickly than a tae kwon do tornado, whipping down to earth as if a killer whirlpool. So graceful was his footwork across the ring, Michael Jackson must have gazed at the sight of him in open awe. His punches were lightning-bolt swift and just as electrifying. He fought the bruising battle like a giant smashing a bug with a swat too quickly to be observed with the naked human eye. His float like a butterfly, sting like a bee motto could not have been more fitting. He was mesmerizing this man to be known as Muhammad Ali.

And so I watched from across the room with unabashed thrill at the sight of a man participating in a sport I had vigorously avoided all my young life. It was simply too barbaric a thing - that sport called boxing -- for me to observe. Yet here I stood in my Republican father's living room, saying "look at him, look at him!" The man from Tennessee watched momentarily and then responded, "He's no Joe Lewis." "But that's why I like him," I excitedly yelled.

I followed the career of Muhammad Ali the rest of his professional life. As a young female who migrated from Knoxville to Washington, my ears were roundly boxed at times by all my Southern family members. "What do you possibly see in him - this guy who's going to ruin boxing?" was their constant admonishment.

As his career started to take off, I found myself some years later just a few short miles from where he set up his training camp to prepare to fight Jimmy Young. By then, I was married to an artist, who himself practiced tae kwon do by night, and indulged in photography with a gifted eye. This man I married had zero interest in the boxing world. But knowing of my fascination with Muhammad Ali, he came home to tell me one night of the training camp just down the road from where we lived.

"Would you like to go -- I could take some pictures for you," he asked.

Later that evening, there my artist mate was at ringside, snapping away with the press photographers. Roll after roll of film he took. It was simply one of the best nights of my life. When the film was developed, he asked me to pick two that he would enlarge. Today, these two are among my most valued treasures. One of them is a close up of a young Muhammad Ali. Every muscle from the waist up is captured in one of the photographs, showing beads of perspiration dripping from the ripples of those incredible muscles after his dazzling workout in the ring. The other is a full body shot which showcases the perfect position of the man in action, pulverizing the leather of a full body bag, with the bag in full swing into the air, and the body of the boxer throwing a perfectly-executed punch. Both are simply beautiful.

More at: http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=132x6005693

I believe we will never see the likes of someone like him who through a myriad of avenues taught us all a very important life lesson: it doesn't matter what people say about you, it doesn't matter what people think about you, but when you are knocked down, you have to always get back up and keep following that personal road to your destiny. And that is how one becomes "The Champ."

Peace to the soul and to the family of the Great Ali. We will never forget and the love will never die.


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