Float like a Butterfly—Sting like a Bee—No More!
Distinio Lois, Jr.
How do you mourn and feel pain due to the passing of a great person who enriched your life? Muhammad Ali the Greatest of the Greatest inside the ring and out has left us, Friday, June 3rd 2016. Sad and Touching.
How does one ease the pain and tears of this loss while at the same time question God. First of all you never question God’s decisions and you should rely on the fact that he probably needed Ali for another mission. “Come on Champ you’ve done enough here for 74 years, I need you for another job”.
But, the pain will still persist and your only recourse to ease the pain and loss of the person’s physicality is to remember the good times, the fun times, the enjoyment of having seen this superior athlete and great humanitarian and punster walk through your life time as you enjoyed him even though sometimes you questioned him. I know I did question him many times.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1942 he was named Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. while his younger brother was poetically named Rudolph Valentino Clay, and grew up in the segregated town of Louisville, Kentucky of hard working parents, father Cassius, Sr. a billboards painter and mom, Odessa was a domestic worker.
Throughout his young life with 4 other siblings Clay’s life was of racial segregation in Louisville, like all black youngsters growing up in the South.
Symbolically, Clay’s boxing career may have begun when at 12 years of age a local thug stole his bicycle and when he reported the theft to Police Officer Joel Martin he stated that he was going to “whup” the thief when he caught him. Martin told Clay that before he did that he had to learn how to fight, and then he took him to a boxing gym.
Clay’s amateur boxing career perhaps officially began in 1954 winning 6 Kentucky Golden Gloves Titles, 2 National Golden Gloves Titles, an Amateur Athletic Union Title, finally winning the 1960 Olympic Gold Medal in Rome in the Light Heavyweight-175 lb.- Division.
With an impressive amateur career of 100-5 Clay made his pro debut in October 29, 1960, with an undefeated record of 19-0, 15 knockouts.
Clay made his Madison Square Garden, N.Y. debut, March 13, 1963 fighting another heavyweight rising star, Doug Jones. Jones was #2, and Clay was #3 in the rankings and this eliminator winner would then fight for the heavyweight title.
This was Clay’s toughest fight which in my opinion to this day I felt he lost, yet he was awarded the unanimous decision. The fight crowd booed and threw debris into the ring demanding a re-count.
Sonny Liston the W.B.A.,W.B.C., Ring Magazine, & Linear Heavyweight Champion, watching Clay narrowly defeat Doug Jones stated, “ If I had fought Clay that night, I be locked up for murder.”
When the fight between Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston was signed for Miami Beach, Florida, February 25, 1964, Liston kept predicting that the fight would last only one round, and many fight fans felt that Clay would not show up for the fight because his screams at Liston appeared to be of fear.
The end result of this fight was labeled the upset heard around the world because Clay now Muhammad Ali and 7-1 betting underdog knocked out Sonny Liston in the 7th round after giving him a punishing boxing lesson.
I was shocked at how easily Ali handled Liston with his speed, jabs, fast moves always confusing Liston who missed almost every punch he threw at Ali.
As the fight went from round to round as I watched it, Ali reminded me of a heavyweight Willie Pep with a punch in a black skin who could move like the Wil-of-the Wisp, counter punching every offensive move by Liston and at the same time destroying his defense.
I was really not surprised it was stopped or Liston quit because embarrassingly Liston looked totally outgunned and humiliated by this young boxing upstart who kept telling the world “I am the Greatest” and no one would believe him.
Then in the post-fight ring interview the announcement of the century that he had adopted the Muslim Religion and became a Muslim, and hence forth disavowed his slave name of Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. and would then be addressed as Muhammad Ali, was actually the beginning of the rest of Ali’s tumultuous life.
Ali who went through 4 marriages and fathered 9 children was vilified by many and at the same time also loved by many as he went through his courageous stand against being drafted into the Military.
I have often wondered at that time why Ali wasn’t granted the status of Conscientious Objector, like many before him were granted instead of the State Athletic Commission taking away his titles, and the Government arresting him with the possibility of serving a 5 year prison term, and also causing him to lose 3 years of his boxing career.
I have often wondered through the years of Ali’s turmoil that if Joe Louis had also resisted the drafted would he have gone through the same suffering and vilification as Ali.
On a personal note when I served in the Army I went through a series of racial segregations which made me personally wonder what the hell I was doing preparing for a war to serve “my country” who denied racial equality including a glass of beer at the local deli, even while wearing my Army uniform.
Through that experience I really understood Muhammad Ali’s stance against being drafted, and going to a war to kill people who he stated “ never called me a Nigger”.
Ali was an honorable man who stood for his principles and was willing to die for them as fiercely as he fought in the pro ring 61 times losing only 5 while scoring 37 knockouts, winning 3 heavyweight titles.
Ali was a man who fought everyone put in front of him who perhaps may have invented the word “trilogy” since he fought Joe Frazier 3 times and Ken Norton his toughest opponent 3 times and then the “Rumble in the Jungle” in Kinshasa, Zaire, against brutal George Foreman, October 30th 1974.
Ali scored a spectacular 8th knockout victory over Foreman but absorbed such a brutal beating that many feel that that was the beginning of Ali’s 30 years Parkinson’s disease deterioration until his death, Friday June 3rd 2016, in a Phoenix hospital.
Who was Muhammad Ali?
He was simply a product of this world of racial divide who although he brought home a Gold Medal from the Olympics which was very rare or few and far between for Americans especially in boxing, was just another “negro” with no rights in his own country.
When the Supreme Court over-turned his conviction I feel then, that people began to realize that this one man was right in his convictions as he was welcomed with open arms in many countries resumed his boxing career, and at least 2 U.S. Presidents recognized his greatness.
President Bill Clinton awarded Ali the Presidential Citizen Medal in 2001, and in 2005, President George W. Bush presented Ali with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in the same 2005 year he was awarded the Otto Hahn Peace Gold Medal for his work with the United Nations on the Civil Rights Movements.
Yes, Muhammad Ali was aggravating, insulting, in a poetic way to many especially his ring opponents but it was a harmless impishness that entertained us although it angered many such as Foreman, Frazier, and Liston.
The younger generation cannot relate to Ali because he was robbed of his major means of communication, his voice and unless parents talked to their children about him, he was just a sick old man that maybe only the older generation related to.
I hope now with his passing they-the younger generation would read about and research what this greatest of men stood for and the sacrifices he made to better our lives.
Nelson Mandela also a heavyweight boxer in his country was robbed of 25 years of his life for what he believed in and Muhammad Ali lost only 3 years, but if you calculate the years Ali was in a Parkinson’s Disease prison for 30 years not able to communicate with us they are almost the same.
Maybe his physical presence was enough. God only knows.
Rest in Peace, Prince of Peace.
1) If Ali had not lost his voice he would’ve been one of the best boxing analyst in the business.
2) Ali would certainly entertain us with his rhymes such as: “If you give me some Jive I’ll take you out in Five”, “If you want to lose your money then bet on Sonny”, The most popular: “Float like a Butterfly and Sting like a Bee-You can’t hit what you can’t See”.
3) The entire world won an emotional lottery because Muhammad Ali- The Greatest- passed our way.