Muhammed Ali would have been 80 years old today.
The men in my family always loved boxing. As a kid I regularly saw fights on BBC TV and I listened at night to American Forces Radio to follow the American boxers. In May 1966 my Dad spent good money to take my grandfather and me to Highbury Stadium in London to watch the rematch between Muhammed Ali, by then world champion, and Britain’s hero Henry Cooper. I was already a (secret in that crowd) Ali supporter and wasn’t surprised when he stopped Cooper. It was a great night (even from a very long way from the ring) and a memory I shall cherish always.
Soon after, Ali was challenging the draft and the Vietnam War (“No Viet Cong ever called me a nigger”) and the establishment itself, and he was even more of a hero to me. His pride and his sacrifice for his beliefs were inspirations for us all. As was his calm demeanour while facing a future with Parkinson’s. He deserved every moment of glory he ever received. Hard to believe there will be another anything like him in my lifetime.
I am saddened to lose him, but glad that his trials are over.