Step aside Michael Jordan, sit down Roger Federer – in the world of sport, there’s only one Greatest Of All Time. And he told us so, repeatedly; from day one, almost. And he was right.
Muhammad Ali was so much more than a sportsman, never mind a boxer: he was an iconoclast; a lightning rod for the civil rights struggle in the United States; a hustler; a poet; a preacher; and one of the 20th century’s best known and most popular figures.
When a famous face disappears from view, amid the eulogies and tributes there are always keyboard snipers and contrarians ready to pick holes and pour cold water. Ali hasn’t been spared the spite, and his often contentious views on race and religion, multiple marriages and frankly cruel treatment of chief nemesis Joe Frazier warrant some censure.
Nonetheless, the outpouring of emotion and affection that greeted news of Muhammad Ali’s death makes it quite clear that few public figures have ever been quite so cherished. He loved the world, and the world loved him right back.
In fact, as the then-Cassius Clay hollered loud and long in the wake of snatching the heavyweight championship from incumbent ogre Sonny Liston and Barrack Obama reminded us in his own heartfelt testimonial, Muhammad Ali shook up the world. There will never be another.
Ali was The Greatest, and if you’re not quite sure why, this article is one you should definitely read.