RIP Champ, you were always ‘The Greatest’

I never had the opportunity to meet you, Muhammad Ali. If I did, I would have told you how much you meant to me, to the American people, to all citizens of the earth. You changed the world.

You were a fighter, a social activist, a poet, a legend, and icon. You led the way champ, and taught us how to stand up against things that were wrong, whether it be the treatment of black people in America in the 60s or the Vietnam War.

WABC Radio in New York used to run a program called “Speaking of Sports” that was hosted by Howard Cosell. Your many appearances on that show and the dialog with Cosell made for great radio.

You were the greatest fighter of all time. I still remember listening on the radio to your first heavyweight title fight in 1964. Nobody thought Cassius Clay had a chance against the fearsome Sonny Liston, but you won when Liston failed to answer the bell for the seventh round.

In 1974, I watched a closed circuit telecast of your stunning upset against George Foreman in Zaire. Again nobody gave you a chance, yet your “rope-a-dope” tactics wore out Foreman.

Although I never met you, I once met Chuck Wepner, a guy you punished in a 15-round title match in 1975. I asked Wepner what it was like to be in the ring with you. “It was pure hell,” he told me. “I knew he was the better fighter, and so did Ali.” I’m sure George Frazier and so many others would echo similar sentiments.

And who will ever forget that steamy night in Atlanta in 1996, when you lit the torch to open the Summer Olympics. That was a moment for the ages.

You were known for your poetry and observations. Here are some of your best quotes. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” was one of your favorite sayings. My favorite was “Don’t count the days, make each day count.” You made your 74 years count.

I cried this morning when I heard the news that  you had passed on, a victim of Parkinson’s disease. You inspired us all and fought the good fight to the end.

The world was a better place with you in it Muhammad. RIP Champ. You were The Greatest.

3 Comments on “RIP Champ, you were always ‘The Greatest’”

  1. Denise says:

    Thanks Rick. This is a wonderful tribute. I also had great respect for this man. I had tears in my eyes when he lit the olympic torch in the 90’s!

  2. Will R says:

    Tom – Thanks for your post. I think the lot of our generation feel as you do about Ali. He was one of the ages.

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