It's been confirmed by a spokesperson that Muhummad Ali's death on Friday (June 3) was the result of a skeptic shock, and as tributes continue to pour in it's also been announced that the boxing great will be laid to rest this coming Friday in his hometown of Louisville, KY. The day-long celebration will feature a eulogy from Bill Clinton and Ali's body will be paraded throughout the city in a procession. It's hard to fathom that the giant is really gone; here, we remember five ways how The Greatest came to be.
Muhammad Ali was larger than life because he acted like it, was almost consumed by it and he put it back into the world tenfold. He truly was the People's Champ. The boxing great was once marveled over by his doctor, who described Ali as handsome, sculpted and possessing incredible skill. In other words, he also perfectly looked the part that he acted. Prior to Ali, boxing was in the throws of corrupt gangsters, but the Kentucky native was his own man who imparted his courage onto fans, almost doling out bravado like they were tickets. What you see now from Will Smith, Angelina Jolie, LeBron James, using their platforms to speak out about eduction, poverty and civil rights, that's just one of the legacies left behind by The Greatest.
Inside the ring Ali was balletic, whereas outside the pugilist domain he was lyrical. Taunts and boasts like "Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee," were early precursors to hip-hop, where the champ utilized metaphors to power bravado and put down his opponents before that battle even began. Sound familar? Along with Gil Scott-Heron, H.Rap Brown, the Last Poets and his corner man Bundini Brown, Ali's commentary (he has an actual discography) proved to be among the early foundations that led rap heroes from Big Daddy Kane to Fabolous.
Perhaps Ali's biggest victory came when at 25 he took on the U.S. government...and won. At a time when most citizen's drafted were 18, he fought back for being targeted over his religious and societal beliefs. He told the press if the war was just then he wouldn't need to be drafted, he would surely go and fight for his country. But a country that so cruelly treated those who looked like him instead, he felt, deserved to look in the mirror. Ali sacrificed untold millions and the prime of his career, yet his impressive career boxing record isn't nearly as important as his political one, 1-0, with a win by knockout.
How could he not be considered The Greatest? He fought Superman and emerged the victor. Today, Steph Curry rules, the Super Bowl MVP goes to Disney World, but in Ali's hey day, he made being the heavyweight title holder the biggest thing in the world. Joe Namath notched headlines, but year after year, Ali left his imprint on pop culture: he started on Broadway, appeared on TV, was open to the press and moved like a movie star.
He was the first three-time boxing champion, but more than that, he shattered the mold of the prototypical boxer: he was tall but also speedy (fists and feet) and powerful. He had a series of rivals, beginning with a list that included Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and Ken Norton, all of whom he dispatched. And on the biggest stages there was no question who had the most heart.