The greatest black athlete of all time, hands-down, is Muhammad Ali.
He was not only the greatest boxer to put on a pair of boxing gloves; he was the greatest trashtalker, punch-line creator and political activist ever.
Ali started boxing when he was 12 years old. He had dreams of one day being the heavyweight champion, and refused to hear otherwise.
As a teenager, he engulfed himself in boxing.
No job, no females, just training.
Ali eventually reaped the benefits of his hard work.
He won six Kentucky Golden Gloves, two National Golden Gloves and two national AAU titles before he turned 18.
Then, just months later, Ali won a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics.
Despite being a 7 to 1 underdog, Ali defeated Sonny Liston to win his first heavyweight title in 1964.
During his illustrious career, Ali went on to beat great fighters such as Joe Frazier, Leon Sphinx and George Foreman.
At the time of his retirement, Ali was the only boxer to win the heavyweight title three times despite being stripped of it once.
Ali retired with a lifetime record of 56 wins, 37 being knockouts and five losses.
Some don’t acknowledge all five losses because most of them came well after his prime, and he spent two and a half of his best years in prison for refusing to go to war.
Ali’s trash talking and creative punch lines are some other elements to his greatness. The man who was given the alias “The Louisville Lip” mouthed some of the most legendary sayings and analogies ever, including: “I fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee …” and “If I tell you that a mosquito can pull a plow, don’t ask how, hitch him up.”
Ali was considered somewhat of a rapper, the way he put rhymes together at the drop of a hat.
He had a reputation of being pompous and arrogant and he didn’t do anything to prove otherwise.
He would often predict the round in which he would knock his opponent out; and he would come through on the majority of those predictions.
In a time in which fighters would let their managers talk for them in press conferences and interviews, Ali did his own talking, giving reporters an ear full whenever possible.
He would give his theories, philosophies, jokes and more than any other, talk trash about his opponent.
Ali would often get in physical altercations with his opponents at press conferences before his bouts.
He would get his opponents so angry at all his trash talk they would try to attack him.
He was a master at mind games and he was even better at backing up what he said in the ring.
Nevertheless, you could count on Ali not to bite his tongue for anyone.
He also made it cool to be “pretty” as he often proclaimed himself to be.
Ali loved to brag that he went into a fight looking good and came out looking even better.
Ali’s three former wives and current wife will happily vouch for him.
Ali’s greatest asset to most was his political side. He had many political views and beliefs and lost his freedom and one of his heavyweight championship titles because of them.
In 1967, Ali refused to go to war and was stripped of his title and imprisoned.
However, Ali was letting the world know about his view way before his incarceration.
In 1964, a day after winning the heavyweight title, Ali changed his name to Cassius X, the X being his unknown name taken away from him by slave owners.
Ali showed signs then that people hadn’t heard the last of him politically.
Whether it is by his mouth, his fist, his charm or his mind, Muhammad Ali left his mark in the boxing world and society as a whole. His legacy will live on forever.
Ali changed the whole definition of athlete.
Ali made it OK to be attractive and still be tough.
Ali made it OK to be humorous and still be able to intimidate the opponent.
Ali made it almost mandatory for not only athletes, but also black people, to speak on their political views and beliefs.
Ali is the greatest black athlete and maybe the greatest personality.
Arize Ifejika is a junior broadcast journalism student from Silver Spring, Md. He is also the assisstant sports editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.