Modern Culture30 Sep 2010 09:16 am
“I’m young, I’m handsome, I’m fast, I’m pretty, and can’t possibly be beat. They must fall in the round I call.” – Muhammad Ali.
Any way you slice it, Cassius Clay-cum-Muhammad Ali was quite simply the best Sportsman of all time. Based on purely objective criteria alone, the man’s got unbeatable stats–three-time Heavyweight Champion of the World, Olympic Gold Medalist and one of the youngest and oldest Heavyweight Champions of all time, to name a few of his victories in the ring. In his stand for religious and racial freedom, for his wit, generosity, braggadocio and deep and abiding physical and mental courage, Ali quite literally had it all. Oh, and did I forget to mention his extraordinary, almost otherworldly, sexual magnetism and physical beauty? In his prime, he was the best argument against the privileging of female beauty as a matter of course. Love him or hate him, he is in a class all by himself.
Thus, it is heartbreaking to juxtapose Muhammad Ali’s current state with that of his “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” self; the Muhammad Ali who dazzled opponents with his blinding hand and foot speed, and the Muhammad Ali who would brag, boast, and proclaim that “I am the Greatest!” Ali has developed Parkinson’s Syndrome, a neurological condition that affects motor and speech control.
Unbelievably, it’s been a point of controversy over whether or not Ali’s Parkinson’s-like affliction was the direct result of his boxing career. Unsurprisingly, the majority of those in the “maybe he was born with it” camp also happen to have a vested economic interest in protecting the reputation of the sport.
Trying to sugarcoat boxing is like…. putting lipstick on a pig (I never thought there would come a day when I would quote Sarah Palin).
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