Goodbye Muhammad Ali. We Will Miss You! I Will Miss You!

Muhammad Ali and I had something in common. We are both dyslexic. Ali had difficulty graduating high school because of his problems reading. Guess what? I also had difficulty grading high school and later college because of my struggles reading and writing. For me to sit here and type this blog is very difficult.

Shortly after graduating high school, 18 year-old Cassius Clay started his journey towards greatness when he traveled to the 1960 Rome Olympics. He nearly missed the trip to Rome because of his fear of flying. Clay insisted on bringing a parachute onto the plane with him. Even the Champ had a few fears to overcome. He captured an Olympic Gold Medal, and Sports Illustrated praised Clay’s “supreme confidence” and “intricate dance steps.”

While training for his title, Cassius Clay met Malcolm X who would become a mentor to young Clay. Malcolm brought Clay into the Nation of Islam and he would later change his name to Muhammad Ali. Shortly thereafter, Malcolm X left the NOI and their friendship ended. Howard Cosell was one of the few journalists who acknowledged Ali's name change at the time in 1964.

When Ali refused to enter the Vietnam War draft during the prime of his career, he was stripped of his championship titles, boxing licensees, and passport. He was leaving millions of dollars on the table to fight for a cause they he believed in. Ali lost the initial court battle and was facing 5-years in prison. Muhammad Ali was the first sports figure to take a political stand as he spook out again the war in Vietnam.

During his three and half year layoff, Ali earned a living by speaking at universities across the country. In 1970, the mood of the country was changing towards the war so Ali staged his comeback; first against Jerry Quarry in Atlanta and then Oscar Bonavena at Madison Square Garden. His next fight was called, “The Fight of the Century” as Ali faced the undefeated Champion, Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971.

Ali fought hard, but he lost the match. Months later he won the biggest fight of his life – the Supreme Court reversed his conviction and upheld his conscientious objector claim. Ali was now free of the specter of prison and once again able to box anywhere in the world.

Not only did Ali have dyslexic but in 1984 Muhammad Ali publicly announced that he had Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative neurological condition. Following his diagnosis, he created the Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center in Phoenix, Arizona. This is something else Ali and I had in common. I have helped raise money and bring awareness in hopes of curing Parkinson’s disease.

Although his disease had progressed, Ali remained an active public figure and philanthropist dedicated to his faith and humanitarian beliefs. Ali and his wife Lonnie were involved in charitable activities and helped create a literacy program that would inspire more children to read.

Many of Ali’s most memorable quotes have an extra meaning if you know where he came from and that he was dyslexic.

“Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.”

“Don’t count the days; make the days count.”

“I’ve wrestled with alligators. I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning. And throw thunder in jail.”

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

“A man who has no imagination has no wings.”

Condolences to Ali’s family and friends. We will miss you! I will miss you!



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