Muhammad Ali was a fine boxer not just in his era, but for all-time. Muhammad Ali boxing at his prime today would beat anybody; cleanse his weight class with hand speed, ring generalship and smarts.
There is nobody like him. When Mike Tyson, nicknamed the baddest man on the planet, was asked in an interview if he could beat Ali if both fought in their prime he said, “Nobody beats Ali. He’s the greatest.”
Muhammad Ali kept punching when he had nothing left. In the 14th round of his fight with Frazier in the “Thrilla in Manila” he gave it his all at a point where anybody else would have given up; he rose to the challenge, and collapsed after his victory.
The “Thrilla in Manila” exemplified Muhammad Ali’s greatness. His boxing skills won the fight, but only the man within the fighter could show us what a champion is.
After the fight, Muhammad Ali was too tired to come out for the interview. Frazier came fifteen minutes after, but it took the champion more time to face the press.
When he finally arrived he told them, “What you saw was next to death.”
The 2016 ESPY awards rekindle us with the man within the fighter, the champion. His greatness is felt outside the ring, after years of being enamored by his boxing exploits; fulfilled even in death.
“The Greatest” received a moving tribute during the ESPY awards from Kareem Abdul Jabbar and a musical tribute by Chance the Rapper.
“His showmanship. His ubiquitousness. It just seemed like he was everywhere. And most of all, his magic.” Jabbar said.
The basketball legend continued, “That ability to make the impossible seem real. Every athlete handles fame in their own way,” he continued. “Some people revel in it. Some people aren’t so comfortable with it. Muhammad Ali used it to speak his mind.”
“We’re never going to see his likes again walking down the street, but I hope his death spurs his successors to remember what truly made him the greatest.” He added.
Before the show started, ESPY’s host John Cena tweeted “Expect great things from @chancetherapper this evening @ESPYS.” And he delivered.
Photo courtesy: Dan Perry/Flickr