What I Learnt From The Greatest

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A man needs a band of brothers around him. Positive brothers. You can call them ‘the boys’, ‘my bros’ whatever. But you need them around. I’m grateful I’ve got such, my actual brothers. They’re always there through the good and bad times. I’ve known them all my life and we’ve shared everything from clothes, books, sleeping quarters, drinks, advice and experiences. If I’m in a fix and need some help, I can reach out to my brothers. Anytime. Any day.

Growing up, my brothers and I loved Muhammad Ali. He was more than an American hero. More than a world hero. He was our hero.He had skill, he talked tough and meant it.We loved it.And so when we heard of the death of Ali, we were devastated. It was nice to reflect however, on the life of a man who called himself The Greatest, and became the greatest.

In my own tribute kind of way, I will share a few things about The Greatest that shaped my life.

Success begins in the mind.

As Morpheus tells Neo in The Matrix, ‘Don’t think you are, know you are’. And so did Muhamad Ali live his life. I mean this is a guy who would predict what round he would win. He would taunt his opponents. He calling Sonny Liston a ‘the big ugly bear’. He said of Liston before their first fight, ‘I’m gonna put that ugly bear on the floor, and after the fight i’m gona build myself a pretty home and use him as a bearskin rug….’ He won that fight. He called Joe Frazier ‘the Gorilla’ and George Foreman ‘the mummy’. Heck, he’d even make up rhymes one of the most famous being ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see’ ,in reference to George Foreman’s slow pace. He wouldn’t be able to keep up with Ali. Many people think Ali said these things to his opponents to rile them up, get them irritated and unfocused. Maybe he did. But I think he also said these things to himself. To get himself thinking he’s the best, he’s the greatest ever. And once he thought it, he became it. The Greatest.

Hard work

For all his tough talking, Ali wasn’t a slouch. He worked hard. Trained hard. Before the Rumble in the Jungle against Foreman everyone said he was too fat. That Foreman would destroy him. But he trained, hard. He made sure he was fitter and faster than before. Even before the Thriller in Manila against Joe Frazier, Ali trained in the sweltering Philippine heat while Joe Frazier opted for isolation and an air conditioned gym. As for the fight itself, it was a grueling 14 rounds and only ended when Frazier’s coach, seeing the damage to Frazier, called the fight and the victory went to Ali. Ali later admitted that fight was the closest he felt to death, but yet he hang on till he was declared the victor.

Have fun as you do what you do

Ali changed the sport of boxing. He bobbed and weaved, and danced as he fought. I’ve always thought of boxing as a tough sport, and it is. But Ali made it look fun. He enjoyed taunting his opponents, wearing them out and hitting them with quick punches. He loved it. As a poet, he made up rhymes depicting what he would do to his opponents.

‘But if I ever was to get in the ring with Joe, here’s what you might see. Ali comes out to meet Frazier, but Frazier starts to retreat. If Joe back up an inch farther, he’ll wind up in a ringside seat. Ali swings with his left. Ali swings with his right. Just look at the kid carry the fight. Frazier keeps backin’, but there’s not enough room. It’s only a matter of time before Ali lowers the boom. Ali swings with his right. What a beautiful swing. But the punch lifts Frazier clean out of the ring. Frazier still rising, and the referee wears a frown ’cause he can’t start countin’ till Frazier comes down. Frazier’s disappeared from view. The crowd is getting frantic. But our radar stations done picked him up. He’s somewheres over the Atlantic. Now, who would’ve thought, when they came to the fight, they was gonna witness the launching of a black satellite? But don’t wait for that fight. It ain’t never gonna happen. The onliest thing you can do is wonder and imagine.’

Or one of my favourites, ‘Joe comes out smokin’, and I gonna be jokin’. I be packin’ and pokin’, pouring water on his smokin’. This might shock and amaze ya, but I will destroy Joe Frazier..’

Lot’s can be said about Muhammad Ali, both good and bad. The fact of the matter is that he was a role model to millions in the world. I was not much of a boxing guy, I’m lover not a fighter, but Ali was inspirational to my brothers and I.

He did his bit for boxing, racial discourse in the States and the world and most importantly teaching us all that you can be the best if you put your mind to it.

Farewell Champ.





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