The Muhammad Ali Influence

I had to, I just had to. When Muhammad Ali passed away June 3rd, I didn’t know how to react. Who was Ali to me? What did he mean? Why did I feel like I lost a family member? Today I’m going to share my feelings, thoughts, and opinions about losing the great Muhammad Ali.

Now I never saw an Ali fight live. The information I learned was through my family, friends, and videos. I remember watching certain TV programs and this man would show up, my father would stop doing what he was doing, and watch the TV as if the president was giving a state of the union. Who was this guy was what I wanted to ask but I didn’t have to. My father would always, I mean ALWAYS state, “look, that’s Muhammad Ali”. What was the importance of knowing who he was? I had to find out. This time I did ask my question because to be honest, I had to know. Once I learned he was a boxer, I thrived to have another connection with my father. Dallas Cowboys football was the first connection, and now this man, Muhammad Ali.

My uncle and father both taught my brother, cousin, and I about boxing. We weren’t really fighters, but they would say look at this guy Riddick Bowe, we can’t believe Tyson threw his career away, oh man, it’s Evander Holyfield, and more. All we knew was these guys are boxers. They get our attention and we listen and watch when they are on TV. What I didn’t realize was that this guy, Ali, he had an impact not only on my father but my mother knew him too. I mean seriously, women don’t watch too much boxing do they? If they do, aren’t they usually family members? Isn’t the sport too barbaric? Well, the Olympics came to the US in 1996. I remember watching the opening ceremony and thinking, man this is cool, look at all the people taking the torch all the way. I really didn’t know what was going to happen next but I kept watching. Then this guy, Muhammad Ali showed up. My mom was in the kitchen and she stopped what she was doing to watch the TV. I’m thinking, what’s the big deal? I know who this guy is, I’ve heard about him several times, why is my mom stopping what she’s doing to watch him as he takes the flame to light the torch?

At this moment Ali’s Parkinson’s had really taken a lot away from the man. He was trembling but looked as pretty as ever. I remember him in his white clothing. To me he looked great but that illness that slowed him down. Since those moments occurred, I always had the utmost respect for Ali. My parents watched him and spoke about him with respect whenever I would ask a question, when the internet came around and ESPN Classic was something to watch, I chimed in on anything and everything Ali. As I got older, and technology became better, I had an opportunity to learn more.

Now to be complete honest, I wasn’t addicted to Ali. I didn’t want to be like him since those days for me were over. Also, to me, he was like a Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan type guy. He was legendary and historic. In the mid 2000’s I decided to learn more and find out why he was admired. First off, just in case you are looking for that great meeting with Ali, I never got one. He was in a different class, it was a different time. I was an observer who needed to know the mystic. I researched his fights, the guy had lost but was still considered the “Greatest of All Time”. People never spoke negatively about the man, yet he was brash and outspoken during the 1960’s. His opponents whether they liked him or not, respected him. People enjoyed being around him and he had a charisma that was unmatched. Also, to add to the mystic, my father doesn’t watch many movies in theaters. The one movie he decided to watch, ALI. This guy, Ali, I respected and admired with the little information I had.

The things I’ve learned over the past week has been exponential. Since he was pronounced dead, I’ve been watching interviews, fights, videos, documentaries, and more. I can’t get enough. Usually you start jokes with a priest, a rabbi, and so forth. Ali brought the 3 biggest religions together. Albeit, this happened at a time of mourning, but the talk about peace, Native American’s along the path, Hispanics, and Asians along with many more joined together. ESPN had coverage on Ali to an extent I had never seen before. The world cried and as I type this piece, it is raining outside and dark. For me, the world is still mourning his death. People admired this man as if he was family, and I admit, I’ve had moments where I’ve choked up thinking about this man. He touched my life without meeting me. He touched my life with his messages of peace regardless of religion. Whether you agreed with him or not, he challenged the system. He spoke about his beliefs and practiced them. He acknowledged that he is human and would ask for forgiveness.

People speculate and discuss his Parkinson’s. Whether he knew or not of the cause he supported and helped in bringing awareness to this disease or syndrome. He was silenced for half his life yet loved. I could go on and on about his impact to myself and the world, but it would not be fair. His accomplishments are greater than we can ever really know, and maybe one day we will know. Peace is a dream because everything in this world is flawed. Unity is what was brought forth with this tragic event yet celebration of life. Whether you are a young or old, male or female, Christian, Jewish, Atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, dark brown, light brown, white, Asian, African, American, Hispanic, European, you know something about Muhammad Ali and he brought us together for a short moment and showed us how petty we can be, whether we like it or not.