The Greatest of all time
I’m bad. Bad. I done something different for this fight
I done tussle with an alligator, done wrestle with a whale
I done handcuff lightning, threw thunder in jail
Just last week, I murdered a rock, hospitalised a brick
I’m so mean, I makes medicine sick, I’m bad.
Just last night I hit the light switch and was in bed before the lights went off.
I’m bad. I’m too pretty to get hit. Look at my face, ain’t no scratch on me.
Not bad meaning bad, but bad meaning good. James Brown screaming “I’m BAD” and the crowd cheered, it was part of a movement that changed America to this day. When the system says Segregation is good, Inequality was mandated by God, and Poverty was caused by the genetic deficiency of blacks. Then what is Good? If Good Oppresses you while quoting a Bible, if Good rapes while quoting scripture, if Good enslaves, then what is Good? Then Bad becomes good. Good becomes Bad. The KKK called themselves “Good Ol’ Boys” and were defended by sheriffs, and after, they were given praise for every lynching. Good just means what the System wants you to do, what is good for them. Bad means what is not beneficial to them. So Muhammad Ali embraced the Bad Guy persona, Liston was the establishment, a quiet, obedient nigger. Ali was the opposite, brash, arrogant, uncompromising to anything he held dear. People respected that in an age where politicians say anything to make you happy, Ali was feeding shovels of painful truths in a sweet and lyrical refrain. Just like his punches, fast and light, but causing lasting effects. He danced, and danced, and danced. The dance was the key to his skills, the first time Fraser fought him, he didn’t watch his hands, his feet gave a clue to his next move. It became a metaphor for life, keep dancing, keep moving and keep fighting. In my university dorm, the most popular posters for white kids were Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee, Bob Marley was third, then whatever rock groups of the time.
Still a nigger
The Yellow man ain’t done nothing to me, he never enslaved me, or called me a nigger
Young Cassius went to a burger joint in Louisville sporting his brand new shining Olympic medal. Surely this was enough to get him a quarter pounder with cheese, easy on the ketchup and sprinkle of mustard, and a plate of fries washed down with a chocolate milkshake? It wasn’t enough, he walked off and proceeded to the bridge where he threw the medal into the river. He never regretted it, a revolutionary was born. Every other black athlete seemed to accept the insult of eating in the back by the trash cans, but not Ali. What a time to be alive. The tectonic plates of society and global politics were shifting, new music, new art, new idols. Natural instinct did the rest, the showman had a purpose beyond self-aggrandizement. To lift his people with his Praise, we also had Praise-chanters, Africans always praised their ancestors and themselves to raise their people. Martin Luther gave long rousing speeches, but Ali gave it the street spin in just one line, soundbites before they were thought of. He realised there was a broader struggle, too many athletes, singers, actors shied away and didn’t want to risk their careers. He risked it all. The draft was not a racial issue, even white boys were sent to Vietnam against their will. His case is credited with helping end the forceful conscription of Americans in war, it helped build a professional army, not full of low-morale forced conscripts.
A Righteous Angry Black Man
Why you ain’t never see no blacks in yo pictures of heaven? Coz they back in the kitchen preparing the milk and honey.
Ali had a way of phrasing even the most painful or poignant situations in a light comical way that cut to the bone. You laughed, but you thought as well. Inequality is so engrained that even in God’s perfect heaven there will still be slave quarters. Tupac asked “I wonder if heaven got a ghetto?” our perceptions of heaven are very different. One pictures harps, cherubs, angels and great banquet feast. The other, pictures no more oppression, the basics and free time with those you love. So we still perceive heaven in earthly terms, we cannot transcend our physical limitations. No other black person has ever managed to convey our fears without appearing hateful and aggressive. Self-love does not mean to hate the white man. In Britain, Ali found his most willing audience, they understood the racial meets class struggle at play. In his long interviews with Parkinson, Ali expounded a program of self-liberation and black self-reliance that is still relevant till this day.
The punch that never was
He was out, soon as I saw his eyes, I saw he was out, weren’t no need to kill him
If there is one iconic moment in all sports it is the Rumble in the Jungle, it was the moment when sports truly became globalised. Satellite technology, cable television, and sports collided in a super-storm. If they could transmit live from the jungles of Africa then anywhere on earth was possible now. Foreman cast himself as the bad guy, walking around with his German Shepherds growling menacingly to any African who wanted to approach him. Ali was the man of the people, jogging with kids, hugging fans, kissing babies. On the night, the locals wished death on Foreman. “Ali Bomaye!” KILL HIM!! This was the apotheosis of boxing, a last hurrah to the beautiful pugilist art. Colour TV would kill boxing by exposing the sheer brutality of it in HD, Mike Tyson was an abused child that they turned into a killing machine that minted box office $$$$$$, a pitbull that was trained for the kill. Ali came from another era of discipline and mutual respect, your opponent is not your enemy, it’s just an opponent. So after Foreman pounded Ali for 7 rounds, Ali with his rope-a-dope leaning back, taunting and insulting his opponent. This was a mental game, every sport is first a mental game before the physical. When your opponent is mentally beaten then no strength can save them. Foreman was so shocked by the explosive flurry of punches, quick, light but their cumulative effect is one giant punch. Foreman stopped for a second, his eyes were crossed, his hands were up like he was begging for mercy. ALI BOMAYE ALI BOMAYE ALI KILL HIM ALI KILL HIM. The African coliseum bayed their gladiator for blood, to kill him in a frenzy. You see Ali go for the killer punch that would make Foreman’s children orphans. But he stopped, like he was waiting for a wounded elephant to drop, Foreman went down and never got up for a decade. He always asked for a rematch but he knew that Ali forgave him that night and he later thanked him for the mercy.
Compassion in victory, humility in victory, and honour above all.
Mouths can punch and fists can talk