The most famous person on the planet died late yesterday. It was said that Muhammad Ali back in the 70's was known by every single person on this great earth. Even if it's just close to being true that is quite impressive. This was before all the cable channels and social media.
After one of his famous fights his entourage drove for miles very slowly in pouring rain. Both sides of the road were three deep as the impoverished people in Africa wanted to catch a glimpse of the World Heavyweight Champion.
I once asked a cab driver if he ever had picked up anyone famous. His eyes lit up as he told me the story of how he picked up the most famous person ever named Muhammad Ali.
Not everyone would accept his name and religious conversion as he started out as Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky. He was fighting Ernie Terrell who kept calling him "Clay." Ali kept punching him but wouldn't knock him out on purpose as he kept beating on him shouting at Terrell, "what's my name?" Terrell wouldn't say it until he couldn't withstand the beating anymore and finally said "Ali." Ali then threw a final punch knocking Terrell out and winning the fight.
It's been said that winning a gold medal at the Olympics is worth a lot of money. Ali returned to Louisville after the 1960 Olympics wearing his gold medal around his neck and promptly went to a nice restaurant where he was promptly refused service for being black. In his case it wasn't worth too much and he actually misplaced or lost it and was given another one at the 1996 Atlanta Games to replace it. He was chosen as the final torch bearer.
Ali actually missed the prime 3 1/2 years of his boxing career. He was stripped of his title and suspended from boxing for not reporting to duty for the Vietnam War. When asked why he wouldn't fight the Vietcong he basically said he had no reason to kill them. They never called him the N-word.
Ali spoke his mind and was a marketing genius before his time. But he also backed it up in the ring once beating Joe Frazier despite having his jaw broke mid-fight. My friends and I would listen on the radio because they didn't televise the fights live back then unless you paid a lot of money and went to see it at a movie theater.
He spent his retirement years battling Parkinson's Disease and working towards peace. Lending his name to causes or attending meetings with world leaders to free hostages. Anybody that needed his help he was there.
Muhammad Ali truly was the greatest. Today, the world is a bit lesser of a place without him.