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MUHAMMAD ALI … FOREVER THE PEOPLE’S CHAMPION

Truly the Greatest of All Time…

By:  George Addison

The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.

Bob Marley

February 6, 1945 – May 11, 1981

Champ receives final farewell. Photo Courtesy: Beenetworknews.com

Champ receives final farewell. Photo Courtesy: Beenetworknews.com

Throughout the course of my career, I have had the privilege and honor to interview Muhammad Ali on several occasions. I’m also fortunate to have the friendship of his brother Rahaman Ali.  My prayers and heartfelt condolences are with Rahaman, the family, and friends as they navigate the coming weeks, months and years ahead.

There are no words that can fully describe the impact that Muhammad Ali had on millions of people worldwide.  The media has done its best to share

Muhammad Ali Tribute. Photo Courtesy: Beenetworknews

Muhammad Ali Tribute. Photo Courtesy: Beenetworknews

the facts about his career and legal battles, but, the true story is being written by those who were nurtured by his integrity, grit, and his inspiration.

Muhammad Ali allowed us all to use his example to give blacks and the poor of the world the courage, strength, and tenacity to pull themselves up and work through the challenges of poverty, prejudice and injustice.  His legendary exploits in the ring became mythical and are only matched by his courage and conviction outside the ring.  Through it all, he remained human and  forever approachable; uplifting the spirits of people everywhere.

My dear friend, Florence Kotono from Uganda, shared an open letter with me about Muhammad and his impact on her life.  It reads in part:

“I am not a follower of Islam, but sharing the life of Ali through his books and life lessons, I learned that the true religion of man is the religion of love; that which we express to another regardless of their race, religion, sex or belief.

Ali did not have the privilege of a university education, yet he made life out of the one talent he had; boxing. Through boxing, he became a beacon of hope for many colored men and women.

Muhammad Ali lived an honorable life. He gave hope to many. He made the most out of his abilities, feared God, loved his family, and shared himself with the world.

Rest in Peace Muhammad Ali!

Florence”

Louisville business bids farewell. Photo Courtesy: Beenetworknews.com

Louisville business bids farewell. Photo Courtesy: Beenetworknews.com

Louisville native, Dana Bowman said, “Muhammad Ali was the greatest and will forever live on to be the greatest. The incredible impact that he made on the community, and around the world, shows that what he believed in truly meant something to him, and that he wanted to share that with the rest of the world.  He wanted us all to strive to make this a better world.  I feel that the way that he has been honored is well deserved and it’s absolutely beautiful to see the love that so many people have for him.  It was something few people can witness or experience. May he rest in heavenly peace.”

Rodney Mangham of Columbus, Ohio added, “I was born in 1970, and grew up learning about Ali and the many courageous things he had accomplished.  My favorite moment is when Ali re-emerged to light the torch during the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta.  It was so moving and heartfelt for me. He was a symbol of strength for so many African Americans.  It was amazing to see that strength on display while he fought Parkinson’s.  What a sight and inspiration.”

I asked friend and author Ron Brashear to give his reflections on our childhood role model.  Ron said,”Muhammad Ali had such a profound impact on my life dating back to when I was a very young boy in

Co-author Ron Brashear poses with Muhammad Ali. Photo Courtesy: Rahaman Ali and RockBrash Promotions

Co-author Ron Brashear poses with Muhammad Ali. Photo Courtesy: Rahaman Ali and RockBrash Promotions

the late sixties.  He was the first real life person that I saw as a hero.  As I vividly recall watching the television coverage of Martin Luther King Junior being assassinated, I was feeling very low and began to wonder why some people would want to show hate toward a person for being a black person?  I was confused and just felt really bad. It was Muhammad Ali’s persona and the way that he carried himself, with a ton of pride, that helped me get through my childhood years and feel better about myself and feel proud about the skin that I was in.  He inspired me to believe that I, too, could strive to be great at something.

As I sit here and reflect back on the times that I was able to be in the presence of my hero, it just brings tremendous joy to my heart.  I feel like one of the luckiest human beings on this planet!  To grow up in Kentucky, having a hero such as Muhammad Ali, and then end up not just meeting him, but

Fan tribute at Ali Center. Photo Courtesy: Beenetworknews.com

Fan tribute at Ali Center. Photo Courtesy: Beenetworknews.com

getting to spend quality time with him on multiple occasions, is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.  Every time I saw him, it always put me in awe as I just knew that I was in front of a human being that was just special. It’s hard to describe the feeling but for others who were able to meet him as well, they totally understand this feeling that I am speaking about.

Muhammad Ali was such a beloved figure that I can truly say my life has been enriched by the times that I had

Rudolph Ali and family friend Shalimar honoring the Champ. Photo Courtesy: Beenetworknews.com

Rudolph Ali and family friend Shalimar honoring the Champ. Photo Courtesy: Beenetworknews.com

the great fortune to be around him.  My favorite memory is when he clowned with me and let me put my fist on his nose in a boxing pose.  He even later autographed the photo for me and its one of my favorite photos.  Additionally, thanks to his wonderful wife Lonnie, who is such a champion in her own right for the way she unconditionally showed love and ensured that the Champ received the best of care, arranged for me to have private time with my hero and he signed a special boxing book for me in Gold!

While I grieved and cried when I heard the news of his passing, I have transitioned now to hang onto the precious memories and celebrate his life.  The road map for the remainder of my life corresponds to a quote I personally observed Muhammad Ali saying to a young kid’s father after he just signed his autograph for the young kid.  The father asked Muhammad, “How do you do it Champ?  You always traveling, you are on the go, do you ever rest?”  Muhammad leaned over with that soft voice of his and said, “When this life of mine is over, there will be plenty of time to rest.”  I was so moved by what I just heard my hero say, that I strive to maximize everyday that I get to live on this planet for that reason. That’s how Muhammad Ali has impacted my life and I am so grateful for the experiences. He will be missed but it will be impossible for him to ever be forgotten. R.I.P Muhammad Ali…you are the greatest.”

It’s this priceless passion for life and the desire to make the world a better place which exemplifies how Muhammad Ali touched Florence, myself, Ron and countless millions.  His words “Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.” And his deeds will forever be our guide posts.

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One Comment on “MUHAMMAD ALI … FOREVER THE PEOPLE’S CHAMPION”

  1. Florence Katono Says:

    Hi George,

    I have read the different eulogies of people impacted directly by our Hero Muhammad Ali. There are no words suited to describe him. May his Soul rest in Peace. I pray for his family too.

    The inspiration I got from the MA centre has taken me miles in my life. To understand that struggles are part of life. That I must speak for what I strongly believe.

    Black is beautiful. Ali said so. I believed him.

    Florence

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