I can still see the black-and-white images glowing from the TV of a handsome, young black man in his prime, beads of sweat glistening off his face and body while in training in the early 1960s. His demeanor displayed a cockiness, an arrogance you might say, but with an exhibition of brute force and power mixed with the assuredness of a dancer's agility and grace, that clearly stated, as he had after one of his later victories "I'm a bad man!" You needed to pay attention.
It wasn't hard. You could not take your eyes off of him. And indeed, he was a bad man—every time he stepped into that small ring with its blazing hot lights overhead, putting his ferocious talents to the test. But he was also a man wise beyond his 25 years at the time. He knew who he was. A man, a black man, with self-esteem and integrity, who spoke truth to power by refusing in no uncertain terms to participate in our government's foreign policy. His truth had its cost, and he paid the price for that decision. He faced many adversaries and adversities in his lifetime with courage and dignity and a clear conscience.
It is often said of famous people that they are larger than life. He was not larger than life. Muhammad Ali was life, life itself, in all its glory. His physical talents that brought great acclaim and admiration; his sensitivity and generosity to and for others that displayed his tenderness; and finally, his family and spirituality, which brought him strength and guided him onward through the years—all combined to make in him what he always was, a good man, a man in full.
He loved all and in return was loved by all. No man can ask for more than that in a lifetime.
E. G. Singer lives in Santa Rosa. Open Mic is a weekly feature in the 'Bohemian.' We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write firstname.lastname@example.org.