He Was the Greatest.
Muhammad Ali visited our place of employment many years ago. He had lost his ability to speak at this time. He brought along a close associate to help make a pitch to support Muhammad Ali’s favorite charity. It was not Parkinson’s disease as best I can recall. I was in a conference room with him and about twenty other people prior to moving to our cafeteria to permit our tenants to meet The Greatest.
While walking down the hallway I dared to tell him that I was from Smoking Joe Fraser’s home town, Philadelphia. His eyes lit up and he balanced himself as if he was expecting that never ending wheel house left hook from Joe. It was a wonderful moment. I touched him on the shoulder and we shook hands.
We walked slowly but steadily to our cafeteria. Hundreds of people had waited an hour for him to appear. He and his lawyer pitched the charity. Then his lawyer said Muhammad would like to demonstrate some of his magic for you. We all looked at each other like kids that were at a puppet show. His lawyer said if we would remain motionless and quiet Ali would levitate for us. The room was completely silent and motionless. We waited five, ten, fifteen seconds and Muhammad Ali lifted himself out of his casual loafers and stood on his tippy toes. And of course his lawyer said in a most comical way intent on embarrassing us that even The Greatest cannot defy gravity but if anyone could, bet on him and please take out your check-book and help us meet our goal.
That is the magic that Muhammad Ali had on everyone. We felt he could defy the laws of nature. Here is a classic example of his greatness. Against Ken Norton in 1973, Norton broke Ali’s Jaw, somewhere between the middle rounds of a twelve round bout. Ali said this, "Funny, the jaw didn't hurt so much in the fight," Ali later told Sports Illustrated's Tex Maule. "Under all the heat and the excitement, you don't feel it. Like a man in a street fight. He get cut in the stomach, fights on with his guts hangin' out and don't feel nothin' until he gets to the hospital.
Thanks for reading my inadequate celebration of a most amazing life.