I was not there when he was ruling the world. None of my generation has the fortune of seeing his matches live. But many of us know about him. To us, today’s youngsters, he looks like an old man, old wise man.

His days at the peak are long gone by. But Muhmmad Ali still continues to hold the place of respect in minds across the globe.

Like most of the great Sports legends, Ali came from a humble background. Born as Cassious Clay, in a Black American family with very modest means, Ali went on to be the most reverved sportsman of the time. His journey, from the boy who wanted to beat thieves, the boy whose talent was nurtured in Lousville, Kentucky (US), to the Olympic Gold Medalist in Rome 1960, and the professional career thereafter are an inspiring tell, just like any Holywood film- full of action and drama and punchy dialogues too. (well, there was actually a film based on his life- Ali- with Will Smith in the title role.)

Of his famous quotes,  “I ain’t got no quarrel with the Vietcong. No Vietcong ever called me a n*****.” came when he refused to participate in war after being drafted. Only Muhmmad Ali could say that, with courage and resolve.

That one decision- cost him a lot. He was criticized by his countrymen- mostly the white Americans for not being patriotic. He was stripped off his title and was not allowed to play. But nothing could stop him. Ali went to the court, came back in the ring, lost, won and kept winning.

Ali’s fights with Joe Frazier have became part of the sports biggest legend.

Ask anyone who was the greatest sportsman of past century, and most would agree on his name. Perhaps, because, he grew bigger than the game. He punched and fought and drawned blood of the opponent. But he was also an ambassedor of peace.

He represents the era that changed the world. 20th century, gave us many great leaders- from Einstein to Gandhi, Mandela, from Hitler to Mother Terressa, John Lenon to Michael Jackson, Pele to Bradman. But if there is anyone who stands out among them, it’s Ali.

Ali became a voice of people fighting against racialism and war in 1960s. He is also a face of Islam in West. Soon after winning the World title, Clay converted to Nation of Islam and then Sunni Islam and eventually Sufism.  I don’t remember any other American Muslim who has achieved so much of fame as Ali did.

In 1990s, Ali went to Iraq to negotiate with Saddam Hussain regarding the release of American hostages. He also wrote to the Supreme Leader of Iran, for the release of detained American hikers last year.

At 70, Ali still keeps going. He has devoted his time to humanitarian work. Even decease like Perkinsons could not stop him from it. Usually, at his age, heores are forgotten. But Ali is still “The Greatest”

– Janhavee Moole