Born as Cassius Clay, Jr., on January 17, 1942, at Louisville, Kentucky, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali passed away, Friday, June 03, 2016, at the age seventy-four.
As a Filipino-American journalist, what I can personally say about him, is that through his legacy, the Philippines is home to at least three of world’s greatest boxers, namely Manny Pacquiao, Rolando Navarette, and Flash Elorde. Thus, we owe it to Ali.
For Philippines hosted what was labeled as Thrilla in Manila, it was hailed as The Greatest Bout of All-Times and apparently, Ali’s best according to CNN.
Held on October 1, 1975, at the Araneta Coliseum, in that bout Ali beat his longtime ring foe, Joe Frazier by 16 points (48-2 over 32-2). And because Filipinos witnessed and were moved by Ali’s heart, boxing became a part of our culture.
As a fan, I admire his unwavering sense of humor, his boldness and yet he was so compassionate. Above all, Ali was a golden, diamond-studded emblem of the human spirit.
Ali at his best: Thrilla in Manila, October 1, 1975
He beat Parkinson’s disease for more than thirty-years. That amid the humiliations it caused him, from his physical looks, to speech, to his agility and cognitive functions, he remained propagandist of peace, justice, and sports. What was more inspiring? He never blamed boxing for what he suffered. Rather, he was always thankful for his fate.
On death, do you know that he planned his funeral and memorial? Oh, yes he did! He insisted that his fans be given ample time to view his remains at his hometown. His bereaved wife Lonnie narrated that it was always hard to pull him away from his fans. He hardly said “no” for autographs or picture takings.
I also admire his choice of name: For Muhammad means worthy of praise; While Ali means a cousin of the prophet. He was very spiritual.
As a naturalized citizen, I exalt Ali as a man of color, who knockouted prejudice. He was a champion of civil rights. He always stood tall for his beliefs of himself and faith.
Ali won the hearts of many around the world, even those of his arch enemies such as George Foreman, all because of his gigantic soul.
A fighter in and out of the ring; an icon of sports and a humble philanthropist–Truly, Ali is one of the greatest men that lived and changed the world.
Assalaamualaikum, Muhammad Ali!