He wasn’t afraid to be great, to be uncompromising, to believe in something greater than his own greatness.
The last of a legacy of Black heavyweights that stood as a champion for the people, standing in the great equalizer of the ring and dominating.
Muhammad Ali who chose his name like so many people I love, who shouted down imperialism, called out racism and white supremacy and fearlessly forfeited his belts to maintain his integrity in the wake of being sent to war.
A record setting heavyweight champion who had to potentially fight 15 rounds each battle, stripped of titles in his prime and threatened with jail time to prove that he was nothing in the eyes of the state.
But he didn’t stop.
Muhammad Ali who threw his Olympic gold into a river when he wasn’t served at a lunch counter.
Muhammad Ali who maintained one of the greatest rivalries in another great, Joe Frazier, who may not be known in the same way, but did so much for boxing and his neighbourhood in philly. Smokin’ Joe was not light skinned and swave but supported Ali when the world turned their back on him and gave him his deserved title shot. (Joe Frazier died in 2011).
Muhammad Ali, who was a womanizer which is not something we should overlook, but hold in its complexity. It is often what is true of ‘great’ men we hold dear.
Muhammad Ali, who was unapologetically Muslim and Black and terrifyingly different to white America.
But familiar to all of us.
He could be what so many of our people were denied, were not allowed to be, and he was ours.
He was us.
I became a boxer because of the legacy of resistance through boxing. Ali will forever be a teacher of the responsibility that comes with greatness.
Peace in your journeys, champ.
You won battles bigger than the four corners of the ring could ever hold with grace, dignity and style.
We will keep building and fighting and remembering.