By Luis Felipe Dominguez
Muhammad Ali is the most famous boxer in history and there`s contention in that.
There may be some more powerful, with a better record or even undefeated but no one has reached Ali’s popularity levels.
He is known as “The Greatest”. That nickname portrays him in full. He may not have been the best, but he was the greatest, the one who transcended boxing and whose legend is even greater than reality.
Let’s look at five reasons why we can really say that it is “The Greatest.”
It was unlike any heavyweight we’ve ever seen. Sometimes it seemed that he was playing with his opponents, that he was having fun with them.
His foot movement did not correspond to his weight … he was too agile. He danced on the balls of his feet and moved sideways, back and forth as if he weighed 135 pounds … the opponents were used to exchanging blows, not hunting a man who was much more agile than they. To that must be added the innate talent he had to dodge blows to the head… he didn’t learn it in the gym, he just perfected it… he had it with him, it came with the package.
No one has used the jab like Muhammad Ali. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” is the perfect description of his style … he danced, he walked away, he made his opponent fail And flail, and he made his way with a jab that had a unique speed. He hit with it again and again, not only did it mark, it was a real blow, setting up the right cross. Ali was a wizard of boxing.
His belt was taken from him… and he came back for it.
In 1964 Ali won the World Heavyweight Championship and would proceed to defend it nine times, remaining undefeated and setting his record at 29-0 … until he was halted by a war I which he did not fight.
In 1967, when the United States was fighting the Vietnam War, Ali was called up to join the army, which he refused due to his beliefs. In April of that year, the championship belt was taken away and he was denied licenses to fight Although he did not go to prison he was kept away from the ring until October 1970… it was 3.5 years in which he could not get into a ring.
Upon his return, he won two fights, before losing his unbeaten record against Joe Frazier in 1971. From his return through 1978, he racked up 55 career wins from just two losses and would eventually regain the belt that was taken from him.
Since returning from forced retirement, he won 26 fights in a span of 8 years … an admirable record for any fighter at the highest level.
Ali lost the opportunity to fight between his years 25 and 28 … let’s look at the record of some of the great boxers in history when they were that age:
• Floyd Mayweather Jr .: 8-0
• Julio César Chávez: 13- 0
• Marvin Hagler: 13-0-1
Muhammad Ali is without a doubt at the level of those boxers … right at 25 we can say that they experienced their best moment physically. We can assume that Ali would have fought 3 or 4 fights per year, which means that he lost between 10 and 15 fights in his prime … how far would he have gone?
He was “The Showman.”
From days before his fights, Ali was giving a show … the way he expressed himself, in which he heated up the fights, made the whole world wait eagerly for the day of the fight, to see him.
Some of his expressions that have gone down in history:
“When you’re as great as I am, it’s hard to be humble”
Fighting was a total show with his punching, his speed, his footwork … outside the ring he was on that same level. His expressions, the way he needled his opponents, the way he appealed to television, to fans. There have been other entertaining boxers, but only one Ali.
His victory against George Foreman.
Many will think of George Foreman as the aging fighter with even a mild-mannered face who made history by winning battle after battle in his mid 40s. But in his prime he was far from that … he was a fierce boxer, very strong and honestly with a look that scared anyone.
In 1973, at the age of 24, he beat up Joe Frazier, who had already taken Ali`s undefeated Record and after beating Norton he set his record at 40-0, with 37 knockouts. He saw himself as invincible … and he accepted the challenge of facing a Muhammad Ali who, since his return to the ring, had already lost two matches.
The fight took place in Zaire in October 1974 and the undefeated Foreman came in as a 4 – 1 favorite. Frankly, a very close fight was not expected and Ali seemed a sure victim. The tactic that Muhammad Alí and his manager Angelo Dundee used to confront Foreman surprised everyone … by letting Foreman reach, instead of dancing around the ring,
Alí took refuge in the ropes and protected himself with his arms from the powerful blows that rained in for 7 rounds … frankly it seemed that Ali had nothing, until in the eighth round and in front of a Foreman who had already “emptied” himself from so much loosening his fists, he decided it was time to attack and with lightening combination. He instantly took control of the fight and dropped Foreman with a right hook… winning by KO what was perhaps the most difficult fight of his career.
Muhammad Ali showed that day attributes that distinguished him from all … endurance, intelligence and above all a will the size of Zaire. Through an improbable tactic, he managed to cement his fame and there he earned himself to be “The Greatest” forever.
That October 30, at the age of 10, I became a fan of Alí… no boxer and no fight has moved me as much as he and the one that took place in the jungle.
The lighting of the Olympic flame in ’96.
The Olympics are distinguished by spectacular opening ceremonies… the lighting of the flame in Barcelona with an archer… the amazing London 2012… Sydney.
None has raised as many emotions as Atlanta ’96 when the cauldron was lit. Muhammad Ali was the chosen one for that emotional moment.
Affected by Parkinson’s, the whole world saw how the former Olympic champion and former heavyweight champion, “The Greatest”, lit the flame that symbolizes peace, sport, union. But it was not like any other ceremony … nobody has generated as many emotions in an inauguration as he … the love and admiration that the world showed him that day, only Ali could have provoked them … it was the greatest manifestation of respect that fans and non-fans a figure has been dispensed to boxing.
In Atlanta ´96, Ali was, as throughout his brilliant and unique career, the focus of attention… just as he always wanted to be, as he always earned it.