a loss to suffer, even if for years you knew it was coming.Muhammad Ali, who died Friday, in Phoenix, at the age of seventy-four, was the most fantastical American figure of his era, a self-invented character of such physical wit, political defiance, global fame, and sheer originality that no novelist you might name would dare conceive him.Ali has --sometimes anonymously--donated millions of dollars to a variety of individuals and organizations transcending race and class barriers.
These same Americans were also enraged by Cassius Clay's insistence on relinquishing what he called his "slave name" for the Muslim name, Muhammad Ali.
"I don't have to be what you want me to be; I'm free to be what I want," Ali said of his name change.
“I pity Clay and abhor what he represents,” the columnist Jimmy Cannon wrote.
Even Red Smith, the most respected of all sports columnists, compared Ali to the “unwashed punks” who dared to march against the war.
Never has a sports figure inspired so many people in so many different directions.
Ali has shown that a sport can be more than entertainment; it can also be a cultural event with the power to change social values.
Was it his physical prowess, his social commentary, his clever, cocky rhymes? Maybe it's all of the above for many who have been inspired, uplifted, and touched by the greatest champion of all time, Muhammad Ali.
Muhammad Ali has undoubtedly been a fixture in world culture since the 1960's.
Seizing the gold medal at the Olympics in 1960, battling George Foreman in "The Rumble in the Jungle" in Zaire, and going head to head with Joe Frazier in "The Thrilla in Manila" in the Philippines, were highlights of a career that earned Ali the status of world icon.
Since his retirement in 1981, Ali has engaged in many humanitarian endeavors, including a 1990 journey to Iraq to negotiate the release of 15 hostages.