By Bernard Njaya
Early this month the whole world – I think it suffices here to say the whole world, given he was the World Heavyweight Champion – momentarily stalled and eulogized, in the wake of the passing on of ‘The Greatest of All Time,’ Muhammad Ali. Tributes poured from every corner of the world via Social and Print Media, for a man who ‘had everything a man could have’ and had ‘been everywhere in the world, seen everything’. His ever-there biography must’ve topped other routine Google searches, either out of dire curiosity, or for mere clarification. As a result garnering new admirers posthumously. Witty quotes, iconic images, classic clips; shared, and even enshrined for future reference.
Then came the memorial service in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky ,
“One more thing. I am the greatest of all time and Louisville, Kentucky, is the greatest city of all time”
He was quick to add that, breathlessly and spent, during an interview immediately following his successful title defense, in one feisty 14-round bout against his bitter rival Joe Frazier. Joe Frazier, to whom Ali had paid tribute early on in the interview as, “the greatest fighter of all time, next to me”.
Ali was “so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark”. Talk about lightning – The Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners (Second edition 2007), in its example sentence for the use of lightning as an adjective goes, Ali was famed for his lightning reactions and ready wit.
Call the reactions and with mere flaunting or real taunting, did not settle well with Frazier. Who apparently didn’t “give a damn” and, would gladly “open up the graveyard and bury his [Ali’s] ass when the Lord chooses to take him”. So it goes without saying then, that many a riveting and rueful eulogy had to burn the midnight oil. President Obama’s too.
It was a sombre event, albeit on separate inescapable occasions filled with rapturous laughter and rousing cheers of Ali! Ali! Ali! Ali! to end his strange eventful history. A stage where many poets stood out for the quite a rhyming sage he was; “It will be a killer and chiller and a thriller when I get the gorilla in Manila”; a pillar where many heavyweights (like Bill Clinton) and former heavyweight champ (like Mike Tyson) found an alter ego; an altar where most religions embraced, for “Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams – they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do – they all contain truths”.
Anecdotes were recounted, memories recollected, and cherished. He was loved and admired – this man who could ‘make medicine sick’. “When Cassius [Ali] says a mouse can outrun a horse, don’t ask how; put your money where your mouse is!
“I AM THE GREATEST!”
HOW GREAT ARE YOU?