Saturday, June 4, 2016

RIP, Muhammad Ali - Greatest boxer, champion of human rights

It is just about an hour since news broke that Muhammad Ali is no more. And it is already trending on Twitter and Facebook. I thought the present generation, the ones who are mostly on the social media, might not know much about who this great man is. But I am wrong.

Muhammad Ali was a name that many in my generation grew up with. That he was a World Heavyweight Boxing Champion was just one of the reasons. He was Black. And like any Black in those times, had to face huge struggles to live like a normal human being.

Photo credit: BBC
We all kept hearing and reading stories about how this man, who was born Cassius Clay, stood up for people who were being persecuted merely for the colour of their skin. He converted to Islam, took the name, we all now know him as. And most famously refused to join the US Army to fight against Vietnam. He was later stripped of the World Boxing Championship title he had won.

He set the trend for many Black American sportspersons. He taught them that their colour wasn't anything to be ashamed about. He taught them to look beyond such things and believe in their sporting skills.

He later came to be celebrated as a great human being, feted by George Bush in 2005 with America's highest civilian honour.

Muhammad Ali's India connection

Boxing in my school

In school, we had boxing as a sporting event. In fact, my alma mater Sainik School, in Thiruvananthapuram, was the only school in Kerala that had a professional boxing ring. All of us had to learn boxing as a part of sports, and take part in bouts. The best among us represented the House in the Boxing Championship. There was such aggressive competitiveness in that tournament every year that it became so prestigious. And, we were all inspired by Mohammad Ali in some way.

Rest In Peace, The Greatest

Signing off with one of the popular songs on Mohammad Ali. I love this so much.