Muhammad Ali: A Hero From The Past

It has been a few weeks, and most of the shock of Muhammad Ali's death has dissipated. Our mourning is being gradually laced with acceptance. I decided to take time in writing this because I didn't want a scatterbrained tone to it. Ali deserves more than confused, vulnerable pockets of thought without an aim. What you are about to read is my deep breath after gathering my emotions.

I'm a retro-minded person, for the most part. I prefer James Brown to Chris Brown, 2-D platform games like Megaman to Call of Duty, and my lexicon still includes slang from a generation ago. The black community would refer to me as having an "old soul." New phones don't interest me, and the only reason I upgrade is because my previous device is essentially rendered inoperable. This is me. Love me for who I am.

Muhammad Ali retired from boxing in 1981. I was born on April 9, 1987. Muhammad Ali is my hero, despite me never seeing any of his heroic deeds live. I admire someone whom I've only seen as a young man in recordings, and the times I've seen him live are marred by disease and the vicious effects of his trade.

So how can someone whose matches I've never discussed the day after they were fought be my hero? I have present-day heroes. Allen Iverson and Serena Williams are two names that immediately come to mind. But Ali passing away sent me into a funk that I'm not sure those two would. I felt the impact of his loss. And like many others, a piece of me was taken. But why?

I love boxing. It is one of a few ties that bind my father and me. Though he isn't someone I would classify as heroic, he is a man of principle, and I will always respect that part of him despite his flaws. Ali, too, was flawed. Just as there is more to him than the way he ruled the ring, there is more to him than that and his unabashed activism. He made mistakes. He ruined relationships. At times, he was not a good person. Yet despite those tarnished facets of his life, he was adored by the right portion of people, even when the majority admonished him for his belief in self.

And that is why he is my hero. I don't need to have seen him drop Sonny Liston live in order to understand the man Ali was. After that fight, during the famous "I shook up the world" monologue, the ringside can be heard trying to cut off the newly crowned champ from speaking. Ali, undeterred, continued to loudly and proudly state that he was excellent and knew so. That type of pride in one's voice cannot be duplicated, and it is the kind of undaunted confidence that I strive to continually have.

Too often, we — black people, specifically — are told to be strong and silent. We are taught to never be our biggest supporters, despite not having overall support from the country in which we live. Ali indirectly taught me to never be hushed. He had a few choice words for those who sought to dim his light. And even though he had faults, there are people who wholly love him.

I am one of them. I love Muhammad Ali. And hopefully, people I've run into can say half the things we have said about him while I still have a voice. Thank you for teaching me how to rumble, champ. You will be missed. Rest in power, Bismillah.

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