(WTVM) - Muhammad Ali was laid to rest last Friday. In death as in life, Ali must have known the whole world was watching, because he was always worth watching.
From the time he was twelve years old and a bully stole his bicycle, Ali vowed never to be beaten again.
He won an Olympic gold medal in 1960 and in 1964, pulled off a stunning upset beating Sonny Liston to become the world heavyweight champion at just 22 years old.
Less than a month later, he gave up his birth name, Cassius Clay, and became Muhammad Ali.
When Ali refused to be drafted for the Vietnam War in 1967, he was convicted of draft dodging.
But he won a fight bigger than any boxing match when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction and upheld Ali’s religious right to be a conscientious objector.
He never thought he would fight again because boxing took away Ali’s title during his court fight.
But once again, Ali won the right to get back in the ring…and he never looked back.
Three times he won the heavyweight championship – a feat that is his alone. He was not afraid to speak out against racism, something few sports figures of any color did back then.
His activism was different than Martin Luther King’s, but white or black, you didn’t have to agree with Muhammad Ali’s politics to respect him for speaking his mind without fear.
When he was struck by Parkinson’s disease in 1984, the slow deterioration of his physical strength was hard for many to watch.
But Ali fought the disease too, refusing to let it take him out of the public view, until right before he passed away, always a champion, at the age of 74.
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