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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Ali: The Peoples' Champ Is Gone

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
-Mohamad Ali

Very sad weekend… We have lost the Greatest Of All-Time: Mohamed Ali.

Such a brave brave man in and out of the ring. He conquered Liston (twice), Frazier (two out of three), and Foreman. And we never even saw him fight in his prime… In those years he was barred from boxing and had his passport taken away for his refusal to fight in the unjust Vietnam War (a stance he took out of principle alone; if he did allow himself to be drafted, he would have had a cake walk of PR appearances and exhibition matches). It short he was a true Peoples' Champ; one who stood up for the underdog, the working man, against imperialism, and for Black Liberation.

He himself was the underdog when he first challenged Sonny Liston for the belt in 1964 (Ali won by TKO & won the rematch by KO), and later when fought George Forman in Zaire at the Rumble In the Jungle in 1974. Prior to the Foreman fight, pundits expressed concern that he would not only lose, but be killed at the hands of Foreman’s awesome power. Not only to did he face this challenge like a man, but he knocked Foreman out in round 8 to regain the Heavy Weight Championship of the World.

He was the Greatest, no doubt, and he will be missed by hundreds-of-millions (myself first among them). RIP champ.

-Dave Van Deusen, Vermont


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A true Peoples' Champ - there's a sucker born every minute

How the hell can you be "myself first among them" of "hundreds-of-millions." Really?

I remember him when Cassius Clay had a great career of him. When he decided to protest the war a lot of us draft-age kids in fact was glad to have him on our side. We didn't give a damn whether he was a fair-weather war-protester or opportunistic Muslim. But don't kid yourself, mister.

Courage? Yeah right. In those days guys were coming home in boxes, sometimes as many as 500 a week. I think sometime before 1966 over 10, 000 planes were shot down. Ground, naval and air troops were lined up in coffin after coffin. In those days they come home in glass cover vacuum sealed coffins. You walked into the funeral and wondered where was your loved one. We had to walk up to the coffin and look down under the glass cover to see our deceased. Mothers couldn't even touch the faces of the their cold dead sons, and those are the ones who came home in one piece.

The jungles were brutal. That war called up every poor man it could get its hands on. We had no goddamned business being there. And, you wanna talk here about Ali's cakewalk?

Maybe "Ali" would have breezed through all the promo shit you're referring to. But those of us with two feet on the ground simply didn't want to die in a sorry-assed war we knew was corporate bullshit from day one. JFK knew that and it was one of the reasons why they blew off the back of his head. And you're trying to tell our readers here Ali took the "stance he took out of principle alone?"

And, now his pulp brain dies at 74 when many of our guys took the "bullet" at 19 and you want to talk about "a sad weekend?"

Ali was a showman gambler, and like any good saloon-keeper showman he knew there was a sucker born every minute.



Ali was like a real-life super hero to my demographic. We didn't know much about his politics. We knew he flies like a butterfly and stung like a bee, and that any time he'd show up on Wide World of Sports on a Saturday, we would be entertained. He'd show up on talk shows, too, and it was always fun to hear him bragging in rhyme. He probably paved the way for generations of rap lovers.

It was only later that I really learned more about him. How he'd go to opposing boxers' training camps and taunt them in person, telling them in which round they would be knocked out. Then he'd do it.

At the height of his career, he joined the Nation of Islam, changed his name, and started to speak out against the war. All career-needing moves in the day. It cost him his title and he was prevented from participating in boxing at all. So he went on a speaking tour of college campuses, and started to become more political.

I saw an interview with a NYTimes reporter who said he once apologized to Ali for the paper using his former name, Cassius Clay. "I write in Ali and they change it," the reporter said, noting that Ali just patted him on the head and said "that's OK, you're just a little brother in the white power structure."

Funny, smart, unique... he had his comeback and re-won his titles.

I don't even like boxing that much, but Ali was spectacular at it. Hypnotizing.


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