31.03.09 – by James Slater – There is little doubt the great Muhammad Ali touched the lives of millions and also inspired and deeply affected many more. Far more than just a boxer who called himself The Greatest, Ali was regularly featured on the front page of newspapers as often as he was on the back, sports pages. Causing almost global outrage when he took a stand (or The Nation of Islam told him to, depending on your view) and refused to fight for his country in the Vietnam war, Ali, then still known, of course, as Cassius Clay, was stripped of his title and his right to make a living. He was now a folk hero not only to his fellow black man, but also to people of all races who equally protested the unjust war..
Three years later, Ali’s act was seen by most everyone as having been the right thing to do, and with public opinion well against the war he avoided participating in Ali was given back his licence to box. He had made a most noble, never to be forgotten stand. One man who feels this and other acts by Ali made a huge and ongoing impression is promoter Bob Arum. In a very interesting interview with The Telegraph, Arum talks of how Ali and the things he did for his fellow black man actually paved the way for America’s new president himself, Barack Obama.
Speaking exclusively to The Telegraph, Arum spoke about the incredible impact Ali had on his country.
“Ali paved the way for Barack Obama to be elected,” Arum said. “I really do think that without Ali, there would not be an Obama as president. The impact he had, the evolution he brought led people to accept the integration of blacks into American society. Ultimately, it induced people to vote for a black man for President of The United States.
“That’s how I see it, as someone in their late seventies who has seen the whole evolution of racial integration happen in the U.S. Ali’s legacy transcends anything he did in the ring, because what he did has become a real, integral part of the nation’s development.”
There is little doubt many, many people will agree with Arum wholeheartedly. However, as anyone who has read the book “Ghosts of Manila” by the late Mark Kram will know, there are some who feel Ali is given way too much credit and adulation today. Whichever way you look at it, though, it cannot be denied that Ali’s name will forever be remembered.
Arum certainly will always love the man.
“Ali will always be The Greatest,” Arum said. “He was and remains, a genius. He taught me everything I know about promoting, and then some more. He touched people, he appealed to so many. The change he brought about in the way people came to see things should not be underestimated.
“We had great black athletes like Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson. They took strides, but they did not have the same impact as Ali did. He actively refused to live with restraints. He had a spirit that could not be tamed. When he refused to fight the Vietcong, people saw his inner strength. People saw a real person, who refused to ignore matters when he saw his race was being denigrated.”
The Ali legacy lives on today, that’s for sure. And it will do so for many decades to come.