I want to commend you and say thank you for your reflective and refreshing editorial on Muhammad Ali, in your January 20 edition, captioned ‘Muhammad Ali’s greatness.’ That was indeed a great editorial about a great man, though somewhat emotional for reasons we all know. In reading it I took a few pauses – as I sometimes do depending on the roll of the story – to play back and reflect upon the good, exciting and challenging times of the ‘The Greatest.’ Muhammad Ali has indeed left an indelible impression – “footprints on the sands of time.” As in the case of other greats, our world became richer and more exciting because of him.
What he was endowed with was his gift to the world, and your are sure right to say his affliction with Parkinson’s disease “has shown that he is as human as any of us.” I can remember him saying when he was struck with it, that shouting constantly “I’m the greatest” was meant for his opponents, and that it is Allah who is truly the greatest. As I have said time and time again, ever so often we come across letters, essays, viewpoints and editorials that are enriching and uplifting, are wonderfully written, arrest the imagination, and open one’s eyes and understanding in so many ways. Such pieces really ought to be printed not just once, but be ventilated as much as possible and be given unlimited dissemination. This editorial falls into that category, and thus is deserving of a second serving, moreso for those who may have missed it.
Muhammad Ali was indeed a new dimension in boxing both inside and beyond the ring; indeed he was “an unprecedented combination of artistry, theatre, glamour, guts and power,” a dazzling light who himself said that he was so fast, that when he flicked the switch to put out the light he “hit” the bed before the light went off! Yes, he stood tall, and from his lips sold boxing like no one else ever did; I guess that’s why they called him the ‘Louisville Lip.’ I recall someone saying that there were only four outstanding personalities known throughout the entire world: the Queen of England, the President of USA, the Pope and Muhammad Ali. Looking back now I think he was almost correct, except that Michael Jackson should have been the fifth included. But your editorial was good about this man who once possessed such a sharp wit. Who said, “Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer’’? and so enliven it made me that I feel obliged to end with a repetition quoting from the last two paragraphs of your editorial: “… but Muhammad Ali, [was] the man who stood up for the courage of his convictions, who stood up to The Man, The Establishment and its distorted value system, to pronounce his pride in his religion and his colour.
“Here is a man who not only literally fought the good fight, but also personalised the struggle of African Americans and people of all colours, everywhere, to be treated with respect, not just for their athletic prowess or a particular skill, but for the beauty of their minds and their rights as human beings. Muhammad Ali transcends boxing in a way that no boxer before or since has done. He transcends the very notion of sport itself and invests it with a human dignity and worth too rarely seen in the professional era. Therein lies his true greatness.” What more is there to say?