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Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer of all time, turns 65 today. Muhammad showed courage in refusing induction into the Army in 1967.  What can this civil disobedience teach us today?

For all you Kossacks over 40 there is an all day marathon on his life on ESPN Classic.  Other than being a great entertainer and athlete, what can we learn from him?  For those of you that remember, Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali was not always the beloved figure he is today.  He was affiliated with Elijah Muhammad and the Black Muslims since 1964.  Even today, Muhammad will admit that he said things he shouldn't have said.  He is not affiliated any longer with the Black Muslims, though he is still a practicing Muslim.  In 1967 he was villified by most people for refusing induction into the service.  He was called a traitor/coward by many.  

Muhammad, had he accepted being inducted, would never have faced combat.  Like Joe Lewis of an earlier generation, he likely would have done USO shows and never been in harms way.  Muhammad believed that the Vietnam was was wrong and against his religion.  Therefore, he lost his heavyweight title and 3 1/2 years of his prime because he stood up for his principles. He eventually came back through perserverance and regained (twice) the heavyweight title and is known by most boxing historians as the greatest heavyweight of all time (sorry Joe Lewis, Rocky Marciano).  

Now, despite his unfortunate physical condition, he is beloved and admired by friend and former foe alike.  We need to take his example and continue to oppose this insane war in Iraq.  Muhammad showed us that the future will always vindicate those who stand up for their beliefs.

Thanks Champ!

Originally posted to Angelfan on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 06:41 AM PST.

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Muhammad Ali was?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Pssst, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FishOutofWater, Blue South

    it's Joe LOUIS.  And as excellent as he and Marciano were, Ali's career was the best.  He's also the only one to have boxed in the Olympics.

    "One way or another, this darkness got to give"

    by wozzle on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 06:39:55 AM PST

  •  I took my father to see "Ali" (4+ / 0-)

    This is a man who has always referred to him as Cassius Clay. Every time a fight scene came up my dad would give me the play by play from memory! He adores Ali! Gotta admit, I'm pretty impressed too.

  •  I met him accidentally (3+ / 0-)

    about 10 years ago in Tokyo - New Otani Hotel.

    My son and I were at the breakfast buffet.

    Ali was coming from the buffet with his tray and entourage. I said something inane like, "Good Morning Champ!" - he nodded back. On our way out we passed by his table and I thanked him for his courage and convictions through the years.

    I got a smile back from him I'll never forget and that was all I needed.

    It doesn't really matter if I'm wrong I'm right Where I belong I'm right Where I belong.

    by Da Rock on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 06:46:26 AM PST

  •  Happy Birthday to the Champ! (4+ / 0-)

    I admire him so much!  I would watch and listen to him rant and rave... and then I'd watch and listen to the "white folks" seethe and I couldn't help but grow to love him.

    Plus, watching the man fight was a sight.  He was so nimble, "dance like a butterfly, sting like a bee".

    Personality, talent, brains, brawn ... all in a beautiful body.  This white girl would get into trouble at the time talking in admiration of Ali.

    God speed Ali!

  •  Not sure it's still in print (2+ / 0-)

    but Bingham's "Muhammed Ali's Greatest Fight" is a superb book on Ali's draft resistance and subsequent imprisonment, loss of title, etc.  Well worth the read.

    Nanotechnology can take atmospheric CO2 and make diamonds and fresh air.

    by Crashing Vor on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 06:49:30 AM PST

  •  Most artful boxer to ever live, cheers champ! n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueyedace2

    Imagination is more important than knowledge - Einstein

    by One Pissed Off Liberal on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 06:51:31 AM PST

  •  "I ain't got nothing against those (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eddie Haskell, Blue South

    Viet Kongs"

  •  took me a while (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eddie Haskell, blueyedace2

    I didn't think much of him when he was boxing. I thought he was a braggert and a clown. However, as the years have gone by I had to admit a few things. As far as being a braggert, Ali himself said it best, "if you can do it, it ain't bragging", and he could do it. He was also without doubt the most graceful big man ever to set foot in a ring, something else I didn't appreciate in my youth.
    His refusal to go into the military was probably what first planted some seeds of doubt in my negative opinion of him. I remember being so incredibly relieved when my draft lottery number came up being pretty high, virtually assuring that I wouldn't have to go to Vietnam. I don't know if I would have had the courage to defy it if I had been drafted, even though I opposed the war. As the years rolled on and I heard more stories about him helping out so many folks without fanfare or publicity I began to realize there was so much more to him than I had thought. I think one moment crystalized it for me. I don't remember the details but there was a man who was on a building ledge threatening to jump. As it happened Ali just happened to be in the area and heard about it. He went and talked to the man, offered to give him a job and help him out if he would come down, and the man was so impressed with the fact that someone as famous as Ali would come and talk to him, he did in fact come down.
    I have now become a great admirer of his, and wish him all the best on his birthday.

  •  The greatest? Not the greatest human being! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jackinthebox4

    I'll never forgive Clay for calling Joe Frazier a "gorilla". He is a sick m*f*cker!

    From the Chicago Sun Times:

    History records that Ali berated Frazier unmercifully through three fights as "stupid," "ugly" and "a gorilla." The worst were Ali's efforts to fuel the racial divide: "Ninety-eight percent of my people are for me," said Ali. "If I win, they win. I lose, they lose. Anybody black who thinks Frazier can whup me is an Uncle Tom.

    When Frazier knocked his racist ass onto the canvas in round 15, it was a beautiful moment!

    Stop making this sonofabitch into Mother Teresa. Is calling a fellow black man a gorilla your idea of progressive behavior? Bullshit!

    •  Ali - Frazier fights were the greatest (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      escapee

      bouts of all time. Frazier was one of the greatest fighters ever, but Ali had quicker feet. The young Ali had the fastest feet of any heavyweight ever.

      "It's the planet, stupid."

      by FishOutofWater on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 07:23:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ali (0+ / 0-)

      Was a showman, a promoter, sold tickets.  Boxing has always had that seamy underside, but in the end, Muhammad did more for the sports and the wallets of his opponents than anyone else.

      •  "Seamy Side?" (0+ / 0-)

        So has politics, but I don't see the people on Dailykos forgiving George Allen for Macaca, or this new Virginia idiot Hargrove for racist behavior.

        Oh, now I get it. If you opposed the Vietnam war, it is okay to be a racist. Remember that this was no one-time slip of the tongue or accident; he made it a part of his marketing routine: he rhymed Gorilla and Manilla.

        And what was Joe Frazier's crime? NOTHING! Frazier just quietly went about his business of knocking people out.

        Just checking to see what kind of racial hypocrites we have here...now I know...

        •  Entertainment (0+ / 0-)

          You are confusing entertainment with politics.  I agree that Ali went over the line with some of his comments.  But he is an entertainer first..and he did it well.

          •  Okay - Then... (0+ / 0-)

            Let's not quote him like he is the god-damn Oracle at Delphi, shall we! Yes he sold tickets. But what price glory?

            The next time a white athlete or commentator makes a racist remark (like calling a black man an "Uncle Tom" as Ali did), I'm sure the Dailykos community will say as you did "its just entertainment".

            Well I'm glad that's clarified....

            •  I have to admit (0+ / 0-)

              you have me confused -- can one be "racist" against one of your own race? Or can you just not like the asshole? It's sort of like the "n-word" card; it's okay for comics like the late Richard Pryor and others to use the "n-word" in their routines, but if you're an outsider, forget about it.

              How did Ali treat other members of his race? Did he repudiate them as well?

              By pulling out the "racist" card too quickly, we belittle the actual racism that exists. Ali did not go to Vietnam because he saw the racism that pervaded American society back in his era. How many of today's young athletes would make the same stand if called to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan? (Assuming of course that the draw wasn't rigged by the team owners...)

              I think we have to distinguish between what's said in the sporting arena from what goes on in real life...when Terrell Owens spit in the face of another NFL player, no one accused TO of being "racist"...they just rightfully assumed that he's a prick...

              "Mr. Bush, you do not own this country!" -- Keith Olbermann, 1/2/07

              by Cali Scribe on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 04:10:20 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  He started young (4+ / 0-)

    I lived in Louisville at the time.

    One day in 1961, 19-year-old Cassius Clay walked into a luncheonette in Louisville, Kentucky. "I came back to Louisville after the Olympics with my shiny gold medal," he recalled. "Went into a luncheonette where black folks couldn't eat. Thought I'd put them on the spot. I sat down and asked for a meal. The Olympic champion wearing his gold medal. They said, 'We don't serve ni*****s here.' I said, 'That's okay, I don't eat 'em.' But they put me out in the street. So I went down to the river, the Ohio River, and threw my gold medal in."

    Don't forget to TIP.TheImpeachProject

    by Zwoof on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 06:57:38 AM PST

  •  On a small plane from Portland Me to New York... (7+ / 0-)

    by sheer coincidence, I sat across the aisle from The Greatest. It must have been about 20 years ago and Floyd Patterson was on the plane too, a few rows behind. They were returning from some kind of event commemorating boxing history.

    I remarked to my son, rather loudly, "You'll probably never again be on a plane with two heavyweight champions."

    Ali was eating ice cream...very slowly with shaking hands...drooling. That pained me to watch.

    He turned and held up three fingers. I said, "huh"? He pointed to another man behind him and said, "Three....Joe Frasier".

    The sense of humor was still there--he was just putting me on.

    We talked throughout the flight and I took the opportunity to thank him for his stand on the war. I, too, filed a CO (conscientious objector) claim and went to court some five years after his conviction was reversed by SCOTUS. It was an important citation in my case and, based on his case and a few others, I "walked".

    He nodded.

    I've never felt so instantly at one with a celebrity, though I've met quite a few.

  •  And the greatest athlete of the 20th Century. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TracieLynn

    Forget that ESPN Michael Jordan is the greatest nonsense.  

    'Events are in the saddle and ride mankind.' Emerson

    by deepsouthdoug on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 07:01:30 AM PST

  •  Screw Michael Jordan (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TracieLynn

    He had to power to do something about sweatshops but made some commment instead about how he's a businessman.  He got what was coming to him when he gor screwed over by the Wizards.

  •  ask Joe Frazier (0+ / 0-)

    I don't care how great people say he was, his treatment of Joe Frazier was contempible.

  •  I don't think he was villified because he refused (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    oortdust

    to be inducted into the service.  It was the sudden adoption of a religion that forbid fighting in the war that gave the appearances that he was a draft dodger.  People who thought he was a draft dodger were angry because he got away with it while their sons and fathers had to serve.  To those people, he was worse than all those others who joined the NG to avoid serving.


    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 07:32:40 AM PST

  •  Ali's Michigan connection (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    oortdust, blueyedace2, Blue South

    For many years, Ali has owned property in southwest Michigan. In last year's gubernatorial election, he endorsed Jennifer Granholm for re-election because she supported the expansion of stem-cell research and her opponent, Dick DeVos (R-Amway), didn't.

    "I think I'm a flexible, open-minded person."--George W. Bush

    by Dump Terry McAuliffe on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 07:39:04 AM PST

  •  I'm not a boxing fan (0+ / 0-)

    but I admire Ali for his courage in standing up for his convictions, even when it cost him his livelihood.

    Can't see too many of today's sports stars or entertainment idols doing the same thing, with the possible exceptions of folks like Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, or the Dixie Chicks, or maybe a few others. Certainly no one in the sports world...yeah, individually some of them are setting up foundations to help underprivileged folks, but what about using the power of their platform to address the issues that cause folks to be underprivileged?

    Oh, and to Saxman -- "smack talk" has been a part of sports since time eternal. Ali was seeing Frazier as being lionized by the white elite, and decided to portray himself as the "black bad boy". You want a real racist, check out Ty Cobb and some of the other characters from the bad old days of baseball...

    [/end rant]

    "Mr. Bush, you do not own this country!" -- Keith Olbermann, 1/2/07

    by Cali Scribe on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 03:59:59 PM PST

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