The Greatest

June 4, 2016 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | LIFE, Poetry | 0 Comments |

Ali takes out the Fab Four with one punch (photo by Autore Sconosciuto)

Muhammad Ali (January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016) threw in the towel yesterday. Born Cassius Clay (he took his new names, respectively, from The Prophet and a commanding general of the third Caliphate), he was really the smartest and sweetest heavyweight.  His poetry was naïve but he was pure poetry-in-motion in the ring – he looked great, he moved beautifully and his mouth was as fast as his feet and fists.  Those titanic fights of the seventies (boxing’s apotheosis) linger in the mind, even for those who hate the sport: the 1971 loss to Joe Frazier, the Rumble in the Jungle over Foreman in 1974; the Thriller in Manila over Frazier in 1975. He even out-punched and out-lasted the shame of disqualification (they took under an hour to remove his title) and potential jail-time in refusing to answer a draft – not something we agree with but in his case it was undoubtedly a matter of principle.  A phrase attributed to him – “no Viet Cong ever called me a n***er” – certainly reflected a truth, and needed to be said in America in 1967.  He was stylish, arrogant, tough and super-smart, and he will be, without doubt, sorely missed.




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