The legendary world boxing champion, Muhammad Ali (born 1942), was honored at the opening of London 2012 Olympics on Friday night. He was honored as the Olympic flag stopped in front of him in a very ceremonial. Appearing frail, the gold medal winner in the light-heavyweight boxing division at the Summer Olympic at Rome in 1960 with a 5-0 decision over Poland’s Zbigneiw Pietrzykowski.
In 1964, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. In April, 1967 – Ali refused induction into the US Army due to his religious convictions. He angered many Americans after claiming, “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” He was subsequently stripped of his WBA title and his license to fight. In June, a court finds him guilty of draft evasion, fines him $10,000, and sentences him to five years in prison. He remains free, pending numerous appeals, but is still barred from fighting. In 1971, the Supreme Court rules in his favor, reversing the 1967 draft-evasion conviction.
In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a neurological disorder whose symptoms include muscle tremors and slowness of speech.
In 1996, Ali carried the Olympic torch and ignites the cauldron to signal the beginning of the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. He was also given a second gold medal, to replace the one he tossed in the river 36 years earlier.
Muhammad Ali had a great sense of humor. Some of his famous quotes included:
“I am young, I am handsome, I am fast, I am pretty and can’t possibly be beaten“.
When asked on TV, “Is God White?” – he replied: “How could God be White when I’m Black“.
On November 9, 2005, US president George Bush honored Muhammad Ali and 13 others with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award at the White House. Bush praised Muhammad Ali for his sports accomplishments and called him “the Greatest of All Times”.
“The real mystery, I guess, is how he stayed so pretty. It probably had to do with his beautiful soul. He was a fierce fighter and he’s a man of peace. Across the world, billions of people know Muhammad Ali as a brave, compassionate, and charming man, and the American people are proud to call Muhammad Ali one of our own,” cited Bush.
Such praise for an Afro-American Muslim did not go well with the racist pro-Israel Jewish Lobby. Both Abraham Foxman, boss of Israel lobby ADL and Daniel Pipes denounced Bush for praising a “Muslim terrorist”.
Muhammad Ali’s official website can be visited here.