A Tribute to Muhammad Ali (1942 – 2016)
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Live Every Day Like It’s Your Last Because Someday You’re Going To Be Right …

As a child, teen and into my 20’s I harbored a real disdain for Muhammad Ali. I found him pompous, arrogant and conceited. I reveled in the few times he was defeated. Joe Frazier became an instant hero of mine in 1971 when he bested Ali by decision in what was to be dubbed “The Fight of the Century”. At the time, gleeful whites referred to Frazier as the “Great White Hope” for defeating the outspoken, often controversial Muhammad Ali. And I adored Ken Norton for not only defeating Ali in 1973 but also breaking his jaw in the process. I can still remember the cover of Sports Illustrated with Ali slurping through a straw what looked to be apple sauce under the heading “The Jaw is Broken but the Mouth Lives On”. And I remember exactly where I was when Leon Spinks accomplished the unimaginable in 1978, becoming the only boxer ever to take a title from Muhammad Ali in the ring. (I was at a high school soccer game keeping one eye on the game and the other on the small battery-powered television the guy next to me had brought.) We screamed in delight and embraced as the decision went to Spinks. In my mind, Ali was plain and simply repugnant.

But as I matured and slowly began to realize – shockingly at first – that I actually did not know everything there was to know, my opinion of Muhammad Ali evolved. I began to better understand the abject racism he had to endure growing up in the south. And even as he matured into a world-class boxer, the then Cassius Clay never received the respect that a white athlete of similar stature would have enjoyed. So, as a young boxing phenom, who could blame Ali for his arrogance, intensity and conceit? Years later, in the prime of his career, Ali steadfastly refused induction into the U.S. Army. He felt strongly that the Vietnam War ran counter to his Islamic beliefs. As such, Ali requested status as a conscientious objector, a request that was denied. Ali’s refusal to serve led to the boxing commission’s decision in 1967 to strip him of his hard-fought, well-earned Heavyweight World Boxing Title. Given his stature at the time, Ali could have probably arranged a deal with the military to serve in a non-combat assignment, which would have allowed him to retain his title and elude the scorn of much of the U.S. population. But Ali was firm in his religious and moral beliefs.

Muhammad Ali’s life should serve as an inspiration to all, young and old, black, white and all other races between. In the very difficult environment of the 60’s in the south, Ali proved that a black man could achieve worldwide acclaim, prosper, stand by his values and express himself intellectually without fear of recrimination.

Black Superman: Johnny Wakelin & The Kinshasa Band

 

 

Muhammad Ali’s Statement on Islamic Jihad and Donald Trump

 

“I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.

We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda. They have alienated many from learning about Islam. True Muslims know or should know that it goes against our religion to try and force Islam on anybody.

Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.”

Black Superman: Gear Daddies

 

 

Muhammad Ali Quotes: The Inspirational

 

“Don’t count the days, make the days count.”

“The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

“Live every day like it’s your last because someday you’re going to be right.”

“Your body gets old, your soul and spirit never die.”

“Teamwork makes the dream work.”

“A man who has no imagination has no wings.”

“The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.”

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

“You lose nothing when fighting for a cause … In my mind the losers are those who don’t have a cause they care about.”

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

Cassius Clay: Stand By Me

 

Muhammad Ali Quotes: The Comical

 

“If you even dream of beating me, you better wake up and apologize.”

“I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.”

“I should be a postage stamp. That’s the only way I’ll ever get licked.”

“If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.”

“Can I Dance? Is the Pope Catholic?”

“The only difference between me and the Pied Piper is he didn’t have no Cadillac.”

“I’m gonna give 300 dollars to the man who brings me Howard Cosell’s toupee, dead or alive.”

“After the man rings the bell, I’m gonna jump over the rope and sock Cosell”.

Black Superman: Duangdao Mondara & Chailai

 

Muhammad Ali Quotes: The Arrogant

 

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.”

“I wrestled with an alligator, I tussled with a whale, I handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail. I’m bad man!”

“Last week I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean I make medicine sick!”

Black Superman: Derrick Morgan

 

 

Muhammad Ali Quotes: Morality & Religion

 

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

“Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”

“There are Jewish people who lead good lives. When they die, I believe they’re going to heaven. It doesn’t matter what religion you are, if you’re a good person you’ll receive God’s blessing. Muslims, Christians and Jews all serve the same God. We just serve him in different ways.”

“Anyone who believes in One God should also believe that all people are part of one family. God created us all. An all people have to work to get along.”

Black Superman: Dasgupta

 

 

Muhammad Ali Quotes: Vietnam War

 

“I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.”

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother or some darker people or some poor, hungry people in the mud for big, powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Poor little black people and babies and children and women. How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”

“I ain’t draft dodging. I ain’t burning no flag. I ain’t running to Canada. I’m staying right here. You want to send me to jail? Fine, you go right ahead. I’ve been in jail for 400 years. I could be there for 4 or 5 more, but I ain’t going no 10,000 miles to help murder and kill other poor people. If I want to die, I’ll die right here, right now, fightin’ you, if I want to die. You my enemy, not no Chinese, no Vietcong, no Japanese. You my opposer when I want freedom. You my opposer when I want justice. You my opposer when I want equality. Want me to go somewhere and fight for you? You won’t even stand up for me right here in America, for my rights and my religious beliefs. You won’t even stand up for my right here at home.”

Black Superman: Hierro de El Salvador featuring Oscar Olan

 

 

Comments
  1. Frank Winston says:

    Well said little brother, and those quotes were just beautiful. Rosa read through them after me and enjoyed them also. She has always been sympathetic to the plight of the underprivileged, but Working in that inner city school, she sees it up close and on a daily basis.

    Do you know if anyone ever collected on that bounty on Cosell’s rug???

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • RDubbs says:

      I was pretty surprised at how articulate and poignant many of Ali’s quotes were. For a guy with very little formal education, Ali could certainly get his message across and on many different levels. School of Hard Knocks, literally. His statement on ISIS and Trump was simply amazing. I don’t know of anyone who could have written a more concise yet profound declaration..

  2. Arnold Plotnick says:

    We’re just about the same age, Richie, and we remember things from that era very well. I shared the same sentiment as you did back in those early ’70’s. I thought Ali was an arrogant loudmouth. Our 5th grade class was heavily divided between the Frazier fans and the Ali supporters. I was firmly and loudly in the Frazier corner and was ecstatic when Ali lost. I can still hear my classmate Mary Ellen Penn whining, “yeah, but by decision, by decision!” and me saying “oh shut up, he still lost”. But as a teenager in the mid to late ’70’s, with the Vietnam war going on, I became reasonably politically aware, and it was pointed out to me (by a guy on my block who was known as Mike the Hippie) just how radical and admirable Ali’s stance was. My opinion of him quickly changed, and I’ve respected the guy ever since.

  3. Kerry Black says:

    In the late nineties, a box set was released, “Have a Nice Decade: The ’70s Pop Culture Box”. It’s seven discs, 164 tracks. Allmusic refers to it as “…a holy grail of nostalgia”. I never bought it, but a couple years ago, my brother was able to burn most of it to a single disc which he gave me. It’s chronological, so I got all the earlier good stuff I wanted.

    In the early seventies, we had to rely on radio, so we heard all the top forty pop hits continually. Some of the songs I like more than others, but it’s fun to revisit some of the lesser stuff, too. Right in the middle of all these very well known songs comes “Black Superman”, which I had never heard. I looked it up and saw that it was a hit, but I had never heard, or even heard of, this song. Maybe someone thought it was too “controversial” for radio or something.

    Other nuggets found online (unverified): Johnny Wakelin was a white Englishman. There was no real “Kinshasa Band”, the name being taken from the capital of the former nation of Zaire, the site of Ali’s famous fight with Foreman. I also read Ali had no idea who The Beatles were when posing for those iconic photos.

    • RDubbs says:

      Ali was not aware of who The Beatles were and The Beatles only somewhat knew of Ali. The photo was simply a promotional opportunity for both Ali and The Beatles. Ali showed up late for the shoot and did a lot of horsing around. Towards the end of the shoot he said something to the effect of ‘you guys aren’t as dumb as you look’. Lennon, who was annoyed that Ali showed up late and then wasted a lot of time replied ‘I wish I could say the same for you’.

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