Muhammad Ali was an original

Published 10:01 am Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Whether you remember him as Cassius Clay, named for the great abolitionist from Kentucky, or as his later name, Muhammad Ali, this man was one of the greatest prize fighters in the world, capturing the hearts of the American public and irritating them as well for decades.

This love-hate affair with the country started back in 1964 when he annihilated Sonny Listen, battering him until his face was bleeding and swollen, to take the world’s heavyweight championship.

His interviews were always filled with cocky doggerel that he delighted reporters with like his well-known “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

Email newsletter signup

Two years later, he saw his title taken from him when he refused to be drafted into the Vietnam War, citing his recent conversion to the Islamic faith. He fought that and finally got the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn his conviction.

Ironically, that turned the rugged prize-fighter into a conscientious objector and a symbol of peace during the heated years of Vietnam for those vocal protesters.

Despite that, he remains the only champion to win the heavyweight title three times.

In later years he took his championship mien and heroically battled Parkinson’s disease.

Whether his youthful brashness offended or amused. Whether his refusal to go into the military for the Vietnam War angered, Muhammad Ali was his own person at every stage of his life. That should be his legacy.