This morning Danny Baker was not on my radio, had I tuned it into another station? No, Muhammad Ali had died overnight and instead was a progeramme about him. What does Ali mean to you? I’ll tell you what he means to me. As a child he was the fighter who was the heavyweight champion of the world. And then the boxing authorities stripped him of his title. Did he cheat with
drugs or something?
No, he wouldn’t be conscripted by his government and sent to Vietnam to get killed.
I’m going to repeat that. He WOULDN’T take part in conflicts where he would be contributing to the oppression of another nation.
Can you imagine today if Wayne Rooney was told he was going to have to give his medals back unless he bombed Syrian’s or whoever else his government had decided was the enemy of the day?
Just say he was lucky when fighting in Vietnam, that would mean he would come back disabled. And if he was very lucky he wouldn’t have post traumatic stress disorder either. And if he avoided all these things he probably would be alive today telling the rest of America to vote for Trump because he was going to make America great again.
So that’s what he meant to me as a child.
As a young man I read the autobiography of Malcolm X and I learnt more about Ali. Not about his fighting, but about his conversion to Islam and his identification with the poor and oppressed people of the world. Who can we compare him to today? Tyson Fury? No one. They all take the money and run. Run to their cosy lives and forget who they were were and who supported them, and worse, shit on the people they’ve left behind. And some of them even tell us to vote for conservatives who maintain the inequality which we have to live with and fight against.
The following is a headline from the Daily Mail website ‘Muhammad Ali, the original trash talking, self-aggrandizing motormouth of sport’. I prefer some of HIS words;
‘Cassius Clay is a slave name. I didn’t choose it, and I didn’t want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free name, and I insist people using it when speaking to me and of me.’
He then fought Ernie Terrell who refused to call him by his name, and during the fight Ali asked ‘what’s my name, fool? What’s my name?’
Here’s another of Ali’s words;
‘Boxing is a lot of white men watching two black men beating each other up.’
And here are some which should inspire us to fight, not each other, but for each other;
‘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.’
And as a philosophy;
‘Don’t count the days, make the days count.’
‘Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.’
One that made me smile;
‘I’m a fighter. I believe in the eye-for-an-eye business. I’m no cheek turner. I got no respect for a man who won’t hit back. You kill my dog, you better hide your cat.’
Another inspiring one;
‘Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.’
And if you think it’s not worth fighting for justice
‘You lose nothing when fighting for a cause … In my mind the losers are those who don’t have a cause they care about.’
And to those who don’t understand Islam and are busy trashing it, whether in the name of ISIL or others;
‘I believe in the religion of Islam. I believe in Allah and peace. ‘
And to those who believe he lacks love for his country because he wouldn’t be cannon fodder;
‘I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.’
You see, Muhammad Ali was a great fighter. But he was so much more than that, he was fighting much more than the opponent in the ring. Don’t sanitise him with headlines like you get from the Daily Mail. I will remember him the way I want to.
Rest in peace.
And if my blog isn’t enough, watch this YouTube clip.