Muhammad Ali: A True Hero

by Donal Ware

Sonny might be great but he will fall in eight
If he wanna go to heaven, I’ll get him in seven
He’ll be in a worser fix if I cut it to six
If he keep talking jive, he’ll go in five
If he make me sore, he’ll go like more
If he keeps talking about me, he’ll fall in three
If that don’t do, he’ll fall in two
If he run, he’ll go in one
And if he don’t want to fight, he should keep himself home that night.

The one and only Muhammad Ali.

Because of social media and the Internet today, we are able to get information instantaneously. Sometimes, the information can be erroneous, false to put it mildly. And other times it is as real as a two dollar bill.

So when sitting with my family eating at a restaurant on Friday evening, my wife notified me that she read on Facebook where Ali was hospitalized and the situation was not looking good. I immediately searched his name and sure enough there were three reports stating that he was hospitalized, one headline calling the situation “grave.”

At some point in this life, we are all going to die. Still it seemed hard to believe that a man with all that Ali had done and meant to this world would

We enjoyed dinner and the rest of our evening. I really didn’t think anymore about it. I woke up Saturday morning and ESPN was on. I could hear Michael Wilbon and Stephen A. Smith talking. And as I tried to wake all the way up and heard them talking about Ali and what he MEANT (like in the past tense), I did not want to wake up. Still trying to wake all the way up and remembering what I read the night before, I knew exactly what was going on.

I didn’t want to listen anymore nor watch. Reluctantly, I woke up and went through many channels making sure I was truly awake.


Having been born in the mid-1970’s, I was too young to have remembered watching any of Ali’s fights towards the latter part of his career. I vaguely remember the Holmes fight in 1980, more so vaguely remembering the replay or highlights that were shown the next week on ABC’s Wild World of Sports.

I had essentially a life-changing moment in February of 1989. That is when NBC aired a 25-year special commemorating the fight between Ali and Sonny Liston. As a youngster, I loved reading books, particularly about Black heroes. Being fortunate enough to grow up in the ‘80’s and more specifically the earlier part of the ‘80’s, it was a prominent time for boxing with the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and others. I remember reading a book on Joe Louis and wanting to watch as many clips of him and get to know more about him; how he came up in the times of segregation and what he had to go through; about the time he lost to Max Schmeling; how grown Black men cried when he did and how he avenged the loss a year later when Black folks celebrated in the streets.

I read and learned a lot about Louis, how he was a hero in the Black community. Although he had passed in 1981, he was someone that I loved to learn about.

While I knew about Ali, I didn’t know as much as I thought I did until I saw this piece on the Ali-Liston fight. I don’t remember why we recorded it, but we did. I watched it over and over and over and over again until – not on purpose – I had memorized all of Ali’s lines leading up to the fight and still remember them all to this day:

Clay comes out to meet Liston, and Liston starts to retreat
If Liston goes back any farther, he’ll end up in the ringside seat
Clay swings with his left, Clay swings with his right,
Look at young Cassius carry the fight
Liston keeps backing, but there’s not enough room,
It’s a matter of time till Clay lowers the boom.
Now Clay lands with a right, what a beautiful swing,
And the punch raises the Bear clean out of the ring.
Liston is still rising and the ref wears a frown,
For he can’t start counting till Sonny goes down.
Now Liston is disappearing from view, the crowd is going frantic,
But radar stations have picked him up, somewhere over the Atlantic.
Who would have thought when they came to the fight
That they’d witness the launching of a human satellite.
Yes the crowd did not dream when they put down their money
That they would see a total eclipse of the Sonny.

Okay, so I Googled some of it.

That piece let me know a little more about Ali, which led me to do my own research through books and encyclopedias and let me know who this man really was.

The people’s hero.

In the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, in a climate where there was a lot of anti-war sentiment against Vietnam, Ali was the poster child.

For the stance he took, Ali could have lost everything and he did lose a lot. Not only could he have gone to jail for refusing induction into the Army, the government could have made his life thereafter a disaster. Ali endured himself to the people, even winning over those that did not agree with his beliefs or what he had to say.

I had the privilege to interview another hero back in 2008 by the name of Jim Brown. Because of Ali’s death, we are talking more about how Jim Brown got all of the prominent Black athletes together in 1967 along with Carl Stokes who would become the first Black mayor of a major city, Cleveland, to stand in support of Muhammad Ali. This is what Brown said on BOXTOROW back in 2008:

[– audio –]

The Ali Summit as it was known (which took place July 3, 1967 in Cleveland Ohio, almost 49 years to the date of Ali’s passing)was a moment in time that is not talked about often. This is a moment in time that we may never see again. Brown, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor), Bobby Mitchell, Willie Davis and others put their careers on the line in support of Ali and his stance against serving in the Army and Vietnam because of his religious beliefs. Remember, this was still the late 1960’s and while Black players were stars in the NBA, NFL and MLB they still could have had everything taken from them. That group helped pave the way for where Black athletes are now.

There will never be another Ali because, while there still are and always will be causes to fight for, Ali came a long at a time when social change was really taking place. And he was the heavyweight champion of the world, who while stripped of his title, was still the champ. Heavyweight champion or boxing champion doesn’t mean much of anything today. Back then and prior to that, it meant everything.

God has called the champ home. His work lives on.

This is the legend of Cassius Clay the most beautiful fighter in the world today.
He talks a great deal and brags indeed-y of a muscular punch that’s incredibly speed
The fistic world was dull and weary and with a champ like Liston things had to be dreary
Then someone with color, someone with dash, brought fight fans a runnin’ with cash
This brash young boxer is something to see and the heavyweight championship is his destiny.