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He was the greatest.
He said that even before he knew he was.

On 3 June 2016, Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay) was knocked out by Parkinson’s syndrome. In the final years of his life, the champion boxer was a pale shadow of his former self.

Born on 17 January 1942, in Louisville to middle-class parents, Ali started boxing when he was 12.  Six years later, in 1960, he headed to Rome and won the gold medal in the light heavyweight category.  

Popularly called  ‘Louisville Lip,’ Ali was against American racism. Outspoken to a fault, he once threatened to throw the Olympic gold medal into the Niles.

In the late 1960s, the man who would later call himself the ‘Greatest’ knocked out Sonny Liston to win the heavyweight title. He defended his championship five times. Controversy’s favourite child, Ali embraced Islam and refused to fight the Vietnam war because he said his faith did not allow him to do so.  For that crime, Ali was sentenced to imprisonment for five years, but managed to stay out of prison. Thereafter, Ali began lecturing in colleges, pointing out the hypocrisy and the denial of rights of blacks.  

Of him, he said, “I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” In end 1971, he lost to Joe Frazier in a 15-round title match but picked enough strength to return the compliments three years later in 1974. He came out of retirement to fight and lose games to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick.  His dream of retiring while still being the title holder was never to be. The ‘Greatest’ had to rest content with a glorious past.

And then came Parkinson. Despite failing health, Ali travelled to Lebanon in 1985 and Iraq in 1990 to help in the release of hostages.  In 1996, at Atlanta, he lit the Olympic flame and lifted the torch with shaking hands.  In 2005, George Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Muhammad Ali Centre was opened in the same year as an effort to promote tolerance and respect. Parkinson’s syndrome sucked the speaking ability and physical dexterity of Ali over 32 years.

By the way, when he died, the Islam community called him “voice for Muslims.” Bernie Sanders was all praise for him.  Ali roundly criticised  Republican presidential candidate - Donald Trump for seeking to ban Muslims from entering  America.

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