Lazy Saturday Reads: Float Like A Butterfly; Sting Like A Bee

Float like a butterfly; sting like a bee

Float like a butterfly; sting like a bee

Good Morning!!

Famed boxer and anti-war and civil rights activist Muhammed Ali died last night at 74. I’ll never forget how he burst on the scene in the early 1960s with poetry and good humor that made boxing interesting to the public at large for a time. I was so impressed with his poetry and his chants of “I am the greatest!” that I bet my best friend’s brother that he would beat Sonny Liston. And I won that bet.

Later, Ali became a “controversial” figure when he refused to go to Vietnam, got involved with Malcolm X, and became a Muslim. He was much more than an athlete. He was and is an important historical figure who changed America and the world.

Ali during the championship fight with Sonny Liston

Ali during the championship fight with Sonny Liston

The Boston Globe: Muhammad Ali, ‘The Greatest,’ dies at 74.

Muhammad Ali, who declared “I am the greatest” and proved it many times over, infuriating some and captivating countless more as he floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee on his way to winning the world heavyweight championship a record three times, becoming perhaps the most widely recognized person on the planet, died Friday in Phoenix. He was 74.

Mr. Ali had long suffered from Parkinson’s syndrome. The condition was understood to be a consequence of his boxing career.

Mr. Ali was hospitalized in Phoenix with respiratory problems earlier this week, and his relatives gathered around him. The family announced his death Friday.

“There’s not a man alive who can whup me,” Mr. Ali declared before his first bout with Joe Frazier, “the Fight of the Century” in 1971. “I should be a postage stamp. That’s the only way I’ll ever get licked.”

In fact, Mr. Ali wasn’t invincible. He lost that fight, as well as four later prizefights. But he finished with a career record of 56-5, 37 of those victories by knockout.

Later, Ali was admired and respected by world leaders.

When Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as president of South Africa, he corrected a guest who said that he and Mr. Ali were the world’s two most beloved and unifying figures. “If I was in a crowded room with Ali,” Mandela said, “I would stop what I was doing and go up to him. He is the Greatest.”

Mr. Ali’s star power extended to the world of diplomacy. Jimmy Carter appointed him special envoy to lobby African leaders to support the Olympic boycott in 1980. Mr. Ali helped obtain the release of 14 US hostages in Iraq in 1990. Ten years later, he was named a United Nations Ambassador of Peace.

Ali joking around with Malcolm X in 1964

Ali joking around with Malcolm X in 1964

But in the 1960s, he became a pariah when he refused to be drafted.

“When they draft me, I won’t go,” Mr. Ali had declared of the Vietnam War. “I ain’t got no trouble with them Viet Cong. It ain’t right. They never called me nigger.”

Having refused induction in 1967 as a conscientious objector, Mr. Ali was sentenced to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He appealed the ruling, and his conviction was unanimously overturned by the Supreme Court, in 1971. But Mr. Ali, who had had his championship and boxing license taken away, lost three and a half years of his athletic prime.

What it gained Mr. Ali was a status and personal authority that extended far beyond the realm of sports. His political stance offended many, but to others it made him a hero and martyr. A 1968 Esquire magazine cover famously showed Mr. Ali with arrows sticking out of him, like St. Sebastian.

A ’60s catch phrase held that the personal was the political. In Mr. Ali’s fists the pugilistic was political. He once described his style as “Be loud, be pretty, and keep their black-hatin’ asses in their chairs.” His very name excited controversy.

Many white Americans were aghast when Ali changed his name, but he wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believed in.

For years, the decision whether to use “Muhammad Ali” or “Cassius Clay,” the name he rejected in 1964 when he joined the Nation of Islam, was a clear-cut political statement. The New York Times Index didn’t stop referring to him as Cassius Clay until 1972. “Cassius Clay is a slave name,” Mr. Ali declared. “I didn’t choose it, and I didn’t want it.”

Muhammed Ali with Dr. Martin Luther King

Muhammed Ali with Dr. Martin Luther King

I hope you’ll go read the entire Globe obit. Here’s just a bit more on Ali as a boxer.

Standing 6 foot 3 inches, Mr. Ali weighed around 190 pounds when he first won the title. His fighting weight eventually rose to 220 pounds. Perhaps Mr. Ali’s key physical attribute was an 80-inch reach, which allowed him to evade punches with relative ease as he relentlessly jabbed at an opponent.

Where other fighters would duck or catch punches, Mr. Ali would lean back from them. He held his hands by his side, rather than up high to protect his head. Mr. Ali’s phenomenal speed and agility allowed him to fight like a middleweight (Sugar Ray Robinson was Mr. Ali’s idol), yet with a heavyweight’s power.

In his trademark white trunks and red-tasseled shoes, he prowled the ring with a dancer’s grace — the New York City Ballet’s George Balanchine marveled at the speed and dexterity of his legwork — showing off with his Ali Shuffle. “I was the Elvis of boxing,” he once said. Even so, Mr. Ali was as much fighter as boxer.

I’ve quoted way too much; please go read the rest at the above link. Muhammed Ali was a unique individual, always his own person, who refused to be pigeonholed by the media and the powerful in sports and politics. In December 2015, although he was battling Parkinson’s disease, Ali spoke out against Donald Trump’s call to bar Muslims from entering the U.S.

Muhammed Ali with Elvis Presley

Muhammed Ali with Elvis Presley

From NBC News: Global Tributes to Muhammad Ali, ‘Champion’ and 20th Century ‘Titan.’

From rival sportsmen to world leaders, the world paused Saturday to remember Muhammad Ali – hailing him not only as a “giant” of the boxing ring but also “a true champion for all.”

The 74-year-old boxer and civil rights champion died Friday from respiratory complications after a three-decade battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Ali’s ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ opponent, George Foreman, described the civil rights champion was “one of the greatest human beings I have ever met.”

He said: “No doubt he was one of the best people to have lived in this day and age. To put him as a boxer is an injustice.”

The New York Times described Ali as a “Titan of Boxing at the 20th Century.”

Nevada Senator Harry Reid said the boxer “taught us all about the value of hard work, tenacity and never giving up.”

“He was an inspiration whose tireless work ethic, unmatched skills and supreme self-confidence made him the Greatest of All Time,” the senator said in a statement. “And he showed us that even when you get knocked down, you can always get back up.”

Ali with Bill Russell

Ali with Bill Russell

Did Reid get that one from Hillary? More tributes at the link.

Reverend Al Sharpton told MSNBC Saturday he was “deeply saddened” at Ali’s passing, adding: “He showed the world how you can risk everything. He gave up the title of heavyweight champion of the world, paying the ultimate price because he believed in something more than just wealth and success. He redefined what success is.

“Then he came back three times and won that title. We should think not only of his boxing skills but what he stood for. He floated in the ring but he stood outside the ring and was a champion.

“People ought to never underestimate that, when he stood up against the wrongs he was one of the most despised people in the country. He took from being one of the most despised to one of the most honored and loved individuals in the world. We will never see anything like that again.”

Read more tributes at the link.

A few more stories on Muhammed Ali:

David Remnick at The New Yorker: The Outsized Life of Muhammed Ali.

Dave Zirin at The Nation: ‘I Just Wanted to Be Free’: The Radical Reverberations of Muhammad Ali.

The New York Times: Muhammed Ali’s Words Stung Like a Bee too.

I’m going to leave it up to you to post other news in the comment thread, because I have a busy day ahead. I’m staying with my nephews for a few days while my brother and sister-in-law are at a family wedding in Indiana.

Just a note on the busy days ahead in politics. Today is the Virgin Islands Democratic primary, with 12 delegates at stake. Hillary should win. Tomorrow Puerto Rico votes, and Hillary should win there too. However there has been a change in the number of voting places there, and that could possibly hurt her according to Armando at Daily Kos. On Tuesday there will be primaries or caucuses in California, New Jersey, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and New Mexico. The final primary will be in Washington D.C. on June 14.

So . . . what stories are you following today?

46 Comments on “Lazy Saturday Reads: Float Like A Butterfly; Sting Like A Bee”

  1. Fannie says:

    So long and good bye, Mahammad Ali 1942-2016

  2. janicen says:

    Ali was a gifted boxer. If you get a chance to watch films of him fighting in the early days of his career you should do that because his footwork was dazzling. But beyond his athletic ability, he was a wise and principled person who will be remembered more for his courage outside the ring. He stood up to the power structure and dared to challenge the status quo. We will never know how much influence he had over people’s decisions to protest the war in those days but I have no doubt that the courageous example he set helped change the world.

  3. Caro says:

    I know everybody’s praising the guy, but shouldn’t we at least consider the fact that he’s partly responsible for the braggadocious culture we now have?

    • bostonboomer says:

      I don’t see him that way. His “bragging” was always with a sense of humor. It was part of the boxing culture, but his charisma and charm softened that culture. But YMMMV.

      To me, his refusal to go to Vietnam and his battle against racism were incredibly courageous and hugely important to the anti-war movement and to civil rights.

      • Delphyne49 says:

        I agree, BB – I saw this on Twitter and this is how I remember Ali – fearless, principled, angry, determined, unapologetically black and Muslim, not to mention funny, clever with his poetry and very handsome.

    • janicen says:

      Do we have a “braggadocious culture”? And if we do, how is Ali partly responsible for that? How can you even quantify something like that? That is a purely subjective barb to throw at a man who had the rare courage to stand by his convictions and beliefs even though it cost him his career and millions in earnings. It could be argued that he was “partly responsible” for bringing an end to the Vietnam war or that he was “partly responsible” for the betterment of black people in this country because there is a clear connection between his actions and those results but beyond that I’m not seeing your point.

  4. bostonboomer says:


    • joanelle says:

      I marveled at the man. He made his way in life through a very violent sport yet was a gentle, peace loving individual. I admired and thought him a special gift to us.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    This piece by Eric Alterman is excellent–a comprehensive description and condemnation of the media’s “false equivalence” culture.

    The Nation: How False Equivalence Is Distorting the 2016 Election Coverage.

  6. dakinikat says:

    Hi. I saw he was on life support yesterday. He was something and another example of why brain and head trauma are so tragic and unnecessary.

  7. Pat Johnson says:

    He was a beautiful man.

  8. ANonOMouse says:

    Idiot Trump at rally in California says “Look at my African American over here”.

  9. bostonboomer says:


  10. ANonOMouse says:

    Bernie Sanders said today there will be a “contested convention”.

    • janicen says:

      He is desperate to keep his name in the news.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        And it’s likely he has accrued a mountain of debt trying to compete in CA. If he pulls out of the race after Tuesdays contests, his campaign donations will disappear overnight. But, he’s finished, if he wants to drag it out another 7 weeks just to keep the money flowing in he’s a bigger phony than even I imagined.

  11. janicen says:

    Fun, juicy stuff about Bernie spending campaign funds for his “audience with the Pope”…

    • ANonOMouse says:

      Ouch, that smarts. I wonder how he’ll pay that back? If he not a wealthy man, as he claims, he’s in deep doo-doo!!

    • ANonOMouse says:

      She clobbered him in the Virgin Islands. She won 84%-12% winning all 7 delegates.

    • Jslat says:

      Today is Puerto Rico. She will be within a tiny handful of delegates to take the nomination. I’ve been reading that her campaign is calling the super delegates who have been staying neutral asking them to not pledge for HRC until after Tues primaries. They want pledged delegates to put her over.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Puerto Rico has 60 delegates. It looks as if she could do very well in PR too. She is currently at 2323 with the delegates she won yesterday. If she could keeping him from reaching the viability threshold and take all 60, she could win the nomination today. Wouldn’t that be a strange ending to a great campaign?

        • Jslat says:

          Yes and then she needs get to the pledged delegate majority of 2026 then there’s no argument about Superdelegates.

  12. vger says:

    Watching Trump on Face the Nation. Bad Idea to watch.