Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee.



There will be many touching tributes to Muhammad Ali at his funeral on Friday but it’ll be hard to top what he said about himself.

Muhammad Ali is the only celebrity I can think of that got away with telling everyone how great he was without making himself unlikeable. In fact the more he said it, the more likeable he became. How did he do that?

John Lennon caused Beatles fans to burn albums when he compared the band to Jesus. When Kanye West said he was fifty percent more influential than any other human being, most people decided he was a knob and when Donald Trump said, “My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault”, the only person we thought was stupid was Donald.

Muhammed Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky and began training when he was 12 years old. He was first directed toward boxing by Louisville police officer and boxing coach Joe E. Martin, who encountered the 12-year-old fuming over a thief taking his bicycle. He told the officer he was going to “whup” the thief. The officer told him he had better learn how to box first.

Clay made his amateur boxing debut in 1954. He won six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union national title and the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.

Following the Olympics, Clay became a professional boxer and stormed through the heavyweight division, capturing the world title at the age of 22 by defeating Sonny Liston in 1964. Shortly after that, Clay converted to Islam, changed his “slave” name to Ali and gave a message of racial pride for African Americans and resistance to white domination during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

In 1966, two years after winning the heavyweight title, Ali further antagonized the white establishment by refusing to be conscripted into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War. He was eventually arrested, found guilty of draft evasion charges and stripped of his boxing titles.

He successfully appealed in the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned his conviction in 1971. By that time, he had not fought for nearly four years, throwing open a boxing division he had dominated. The years he didn’t fight took him from age 25 to the cusp of his 29th birthday, prime time for any pro athlete but particularly a heavyweight boxer. During Ali’s time in limbo, Joe Frazier ruled the boxing world. Ali fought three epic matches after he returned, against the undefeated Joe Frazier. Frazier won the first fight, but Ali came back to win the second and third fights. One of the most notable matches in boxing history, better known as the “Rumble in the Jungle,” happened in October 1974. Ali regained his title by defeating heavyweight champion George Foreman in Zaire, then went on to beat Frazier again in the final battle in the trilogy, in the Philippines a year later. Best known as the “Thrilla in Manila”.

Following the end of his boxing career in 1981, Ali became heavily involved in philanthropy and public service, even as he battled Parkinson’s disease.

As Matt Taibbi pointed out in Rolling Stone Magazine, “He would have been larger than life anyway, but his defiant stand against his own government amplified his legend as a fighter of bottomless will and courage, and made him a towering figure in our history“.

Other celebrities turn us off them when they brag, but when Muhammad Ali said, “I am the greatest” and rhymed it in poetry, his eyes wide and bright with mischief, just this side of crazy, we loved him MORE!

And we loved him more because unlike the others, he was right!

Craic on!

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