Just a bit of poetic license because I never actually fought Ali although he did throw a punch at me. That may be a stretch too as he never intended to hit me because he surely could have done so had he meant to. Muhammad Ali came to visit Fisk University in 1975 and I was among many enthralled by his presence. He was admired not for being a champion. But for championing peace and non-violence. For taking a stand and not giving in to the pressure to bow down even though it temporarily cost him his belt and millions in earnings for doing so. He risked going to jail for his beliefs and it was the man and not the boxer that was cheered that day.
He gathered around him in a circle, those of us who at least looked the most formidable. Football players, basketball players and other athletes. I told myself I was taller than he, my reach as long. But before any delusions of glory could manifest themselves, he threw a playful jab in my direction as he’d done others in the circle to demonstrate his quickness. It only registered that he’d thrown the punch after his fist was on its way back. I felt the wind against my jaw before my sight registered the arm behind the fist I never did see. My thoughts of boxing were permanently erased as I realized that there was a level to which I could only aspire.
Ali eventually disappeared back into the limousine in which he appeared. Many got to chat with him and while I did not I have a memory that will last always. Muhammad Ali… the greatest. RIP!