Not the rumbles – the reverberations.
The death of Muhammad Ali will undoubtedly move people’s minds to his epic boxing matches against Joe Frazier and George Foreman or there will be retrospectives about his epic ‘rumbles’ against racism and war.
But it’s the reverberations that we have to understand in order to see Muhammad Ali as what he remains: the most important athlete to ever live.
It’s the reverberations that are our best defense against real-time efforts to pull out his political teeth and turn him into a harmless icon suitable for mass consumption.
When Dr. Martin Luther King came out against the war in Vietnam in 1967 he was criticized by the mainstream press and his own advisors who told him to not focus on ‘foreign’ policy.
But Dr. King forged ahead and to justify his new stand said publicly ‘Like Muhammad Ali puts it we are all—black and brown and poor—victims of the same system of oppression’.
When Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island he said that Muhammad Ali gave him hope that the walls would some day come tumbling down.
When John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists on the medal stand in Mexico City one of their demands was to ‘Restore Muhammad Ali’s title’.
They called Ali ‘the warrior-saint of the Black Athlete’s Revolt’.
(ed:..it pays to remember that that same media who are now conferring (a well-deserved) sainthood upon ali – previously universally reviled him as a ‘traitor’ for his outspoken opposition to the war-crime that was the vietnam invasion..)