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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Muhammad Ali, The Greatest

Muhammad Ali, The Greatest

Growing up during the 60’s, one of the favorite activities was the Friday Gillett Fights on television.  Our family was still one of the lucky ones in the neighborhood to have a television set.  Relatives gathered at our house on Friday evening all pumped for the wonderful meal that preceded the Friday Night Fights.  I never actually saw anyone get drunk but I do remember that the adult men in the family (my step-father, uncles and cousins) all drank beer with their meal and during the fight.

I recall that the more exciting the boxing match was the less beer the men drank because they were so into the fight.  It was obvious to me that the beer drinking was not the object of the night.  As was customary for the ladies of the house to be found working in the kitchen preparing the extravagant meal of the evening (a feast to be sure).

The children (anyone under the drinking age) downed their meal with a couple of cold glasses of Kool-Aid.  It was during this family gatherings that I became aware and a fan of Cassius Clay (Muhammad’s name before he changed it soon after the Liston fight).

I remember with great clarity my introduction to the big time 1965.  I was still a teenager, and was happily surprised to be invited to a close circuit television presentation some 40 miles away from my home.  My biggest disappointment came when we arrived inside the venue three minutes into the fight, and fight had only lasted two minutes.  We sat there and saw the replays over and over on the large screen.  The excitement in the room was unbelievable.

  • Soon after the Liston fight, Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali upon converting to Islam and affiliating with the Nation of Islam. Ali then faced a rematch with Liston scheduled for May 1965 in Lewiston, Maine. It had been scheduled for Boston the previous November, but was postponed for six months due to Ali's emergency surgery for a hernia three days before. The fight was controversial. Midway through the first round, Liston was knocked down by a difficult-to-see blow the press dubbed a "phantom punch". Ali refused to retreat to a neutral corner, and referee Jersey Joe Walcott did not begin the count. Liston rose after he had been down about 20 seconds, and the fight momentarily continued. But a few seconds later Walcott stopped the match, declaring Ali the winner by knockout. The entire fight lasted less than two minutes. ~Wikipedia

The loss of Ali is every bit as impacting to me as the day I heard on the radio of the other major icon of my youth’s passing, the King of Rock and Roll.  R.I.P Muhammad Ali.  For the rest of us life goes on and the best is yet to come……..

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