Just woke up to the sad news: Muhammad Ali, The Greatest, passed away. He had been suffering for Parkinson’s disease for decades, so his passing away does give him some respite.
Growing up in a boxing family, I heard stories about him in the ring. He one time took punches for a whole fight, throwing very few, just so he could tire out his opponent and knock him out at the end. He also fought some of the greatest fights of all time: against Foreman and Frazier.
This picture I included is from Ali’s second fight against Sonny Liston. Many referred to this first-round knockout blow as the phantom punch. However, James J. Braddock aka The Cinderella Man and Rocky Marciano were both sitting ringside and believe it was a legitimate KO. I included this picture, not only because it is the most iconic sports photo of all time, but also because this was the moment when Ali began to become known as the Ali we know him as today: The Greatest.
He’s The Greatest of All Time. No one did it better than him. His combination of speed, power, and defense will never be matched by anyone else. He truly embodied his philosophy of “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” On top of that, he served as a symbol for everyone to aspire to.
He openly told everyone that he’s the Greatest. He was a proud Muslim. As a black man, he fought not only his opponents, but society. He won. The fight is still being fought, but he definitely won his battles.
At a time when celebrities like Justin Bieber join Team Money and support a boxer like Floyd Mayweather, it really sinks in that times have changed in the sport of boxing. Gone are the days of fighters who happen to make money. Now it’s all about money-makers who happen to fight. On top of that, young children are now idolizing people like Mayweather, who has more domestic violence charges than I can count on my hand.
Hopefully we continue to remember Muhammad Ali. For the sake of the sport of boxing, for the sake of interracial harmony, for the sake of religious coexistence, for the sake of world peace, we must continue to pass on his legacy.
I’m happy to say that in the case of my cousin Kevin McCormick, Ali’s legacy will continue to live on. Kevin grew up without much support from his father, who is now completely absent from his life. Kevin is black. Kevin later became a boxer. Kevin also found Islam. In many ways, he is like a young Muhammad Ali, a man whom Kevin considers to be his hero.
I love Kevin with all my heart and was so happy when he found guiding lights in both Islam and boxing. In many ways, much of the discipline required for Islam is required for boxing. Very often, you have to wake up early for prayer or for training. You have to watch what you consume, only putting non-harmful things in your body. You join a team, either your ummah or your fellow boxers from your gym.
I’m proud of the man that Kevin is becoming and know that he is sad that his idol has passed away. However, he can take solace in remembering one of the most beautiful verses from the Quran.
Rest in Power.