Every year can be considered the year of death, but man, 2016 has been particularly brutal. We’ve lost so many legendary actors, performers, and people of influence – Lemmy Kilmister, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Abe Vigoda, Prince and many others. Now 2016 has gutted us with another loss. The cold hand of the reaper has taken one of the most famous athletes of all time Muhammad Ali.
This past weekend, former boxing champion Muhammed Ali was admitted to a local hospital in Phoenix, Arizona due to respiratory illness. Many though this was simply a precaution. Unfortunately late last night word began to travel advising that the legendary boxer’s health was drastically fading. Within the past hour, Muhammed Ali has passed away.
Why should we here over at Nerd Bastards report on such an event? After all, this doesn’t have much to do with comic books, superheroes, or movies. However, Muhammed Ali was a real life superhero to many throughout the world. Not only was he a champion in the ring, but Muhammed Ali was a champion outside of the ring. Ali began boxing at the age of 12 and by the time he was 18 he was an Olympic medal winning boxer, and by 22 the world heavyweight champion. Born Cassius Clay Ali converted to the Nation of Islam and became very active within circles of the Civil Right Movement of the 1960s.
One of the biggest battles Ali ever faced did not occur within the ring, but outside the ring as part of our national conversation about war. Ali opposed the Vietnam War due to religious reasons and refused to serve when drafted. Ali was convicted of draft evasion and even stripped of his heavyweight title as a result. Rather than make a deal, Ali stuck to his moral convictions.
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars.”
Through a hard-fought legal battle, that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, Ali had his conviction overturned, and regained his boxing license in 1971 and soon enough was back on top of the boxing world. Ali was the only heavyweight champion to win the title on three occasions: 1964, 1974, and 1978. One of the greatest boxing matches in history was his fight against George Foreman in the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” fight where he and Foreman fought in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). The much larger Foreman was expected to win, but Ali pulled out as the victor. The fight was chronicled in the documentary When We Were Kings, and the film Ali starring Will Smith.
Ali’s boxing persona was the stuff of legend. He was known for constantly “talking trash” against his opponents, but he could absolutely back it up. Not only did it help sell the fights due to the hype he created, but he was able to psychologically break down his opponents. Nowadays, talking trash is almost a requirement in the sport, and many others.
Later in life Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome and then became an activist for the condition. When he returned he continued his social activism. Ali traveled to Iraq during the first Gulf War on behalf of the US to meet with Dictator Saddam Hussein to negotiate the release of American hostages. He served as a “UN Messenger of Peace” in Afghanistan in 2002. Ali light the flame during the 1996 Olympic Games, and in the 2012 Olympic Games, he served as the bearer of the Olympic flag.
Ali even beat Superman:
Through the later years, his health began to decline until his unfortunate passing June 3, 2016 at the age of 74.
RIP Champ! You Truly Are “The Greatest!”