This Tuesday will be the 70th birthday of Muhammad Ali...
Opinions will differ and debate will rage, but for me Cassius Clay/ Muhammad Ali is not just the greatest boxer of all time; he is simply the greatest sportsman that has ever lived.
This morning, I watched the Thrilla in Manila, Ali’s third epic encounter with the late Joe Frazier which took place in 1975. It was an incredibly close contest until the 13th round, when Ali knocked Frazier’s gum shield from his opponent’s mouth and unleashed a barrage of punches that finally cracked Frazier’s physical resistance. Smokin’ Joe was retired on his stool at the end of the following round, beaten, but with bravery beyond question... he was never knocked to the canvas during three fights against his greatest adversary.
A victorious Ali rose to his feet and promptly crumpled to the floor through sheer exhaustion.
There is no doubt in my mind that this fight ended the careers of both men... but Ali boxed on... with dire consequences as it turned out...
The life of the man born in Louisville, Kentucky on 17th January 1942 has been more than well documented. His ability inside the ring and persona out of it were pure box office and heralded a golden age of heavyweight boxing the like of which will probably never be seen again.Clay’s truly incredible 1964 defeat of Charles “Sonny” Liston to win the World Heavyweight title is my favourite ever sporting moment and although the Vietnam draft saga arguably denied the world Ali’s finest years, his legacy surely is guaranteed...
So... to “the Greatest”, I simply say... “Happy Birthday”...
All my own work... almost.