Saturday, 11 June 2016

BOXING:- Late Legend Muhammad Ali The Greatest makes his last homecoming.......

We came to bury Cassius.
And to praise him.
The wonders that men do live after them.
The rest is best interred with their bones.  


Thus might The Bard have consecrated the remains of The Greatest, in words beyond we mortals.
On this epochal, sun-scorched day of smouldering passions re-heated, conflicting emotions and Presidential eulogy, better to let a paraphrasing of Shakespeare canonise his fellow poet.
A black brother from a distant land, a different culture, another history. Yet a companion of the quill, just the same.
The Greatest in his other art form — that brutal nobility of the squared ring — transcended boxing, transcended sport, transcended all the oceans of this planet.
Muhammad Ali, who remains the only man to win the heavyweight title three times, was an iconic figure inside and outside of the ring

Muhammad Ali, who remains the only man to win the heavyweight title three times, was an iconic figure inside and outside of the ring
A diverse and vast crowd from a wide range of backgrounds gathered to celebrate and remember the life of a most charismatic man

A diverse and vast crowd from a wide range of backgrounds gathered to celebrate and remember the life of a most charismatic man
Ali's 10 pallbearers (top left to right) Gene Dibble Jr, John Ramsey, Jerry Ellis, Kamawi Ali and Jan Waddell, (bottom left to right) Ibn Ali, Lennox Lewis, Will Smith, John Grady and Mike Tyson

Ali's 10 pallbearers (top left to right) Gene Dibble Jr, John Ramsey, Jerry Ellis, Kamawi Ali and Jan Waddell, (bottom left to right) Ibn Ali, Lennox Lewis, Will Smith, John Grady and Mike Tyson
Pallbearers Tyson (front), Smith and Lewis (behind) are pictured prior to the ceremony as the world said farewell to a great

Pallbearers Tyson (front), Smith and Lewis (behind) are pictured prior to the ceremony as the world said farewell to a great


Hence the family invited the world to his funeral. And the world came.
Came in their thousands to cram a suitably sporting arena for the public rites.
Came in their political power and celluloid celebrity to pay homage to this phenomenal being who won not only the world heavyweight championship three times but more vitally for humanity the fight for freedom in this fallen bastion of southern slavery.
Came in their multitude to throng the streets as that dark cavalcade carried him on this final lap of honour around his home town.
The gladiator who left Louisville as Cassius Marcellus Clay, a teenager in quest of Olympic gold, has made his last homecoming as Muhammad Ali, the giant who survived Parkinson’s for 32 years before his dignified retirement last Friday from the fray of life at the age of 74.
Bill Clinton was waiting amid the clamour of the arena. His own voice sounds shaky now but the message remains strong: ‘I think my friend decided very young to write his own life story.’
Barack Obama sent a dignified message to ‘the man who inspired a young black kid to believe he could be president of the United States’.
Billy Crystal reprised his uncanny Ali impersonation at the exact moment it was needed, just as the weight of reverence and heavy political tone threatened to burden the humorous lightness of Ali’s being.
The compendium of eulogies had begun with Ali’s widow Lonnie, whose unstinting devotion had shielded his wealth from the predators and reassured him there was no shame in wearing his trembling affliction in the public gaze he relished.
Arrivals: Soccer player David Beckham, left, arrives for Muhammad Ali's memorial service on Friday in Louisville, Kentucky 

Actor and former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, center, arrives for Muhammad Ali's public funeral on Friday

David Beckham, (top), arrives for Ali's memorial service, with Arnold Schwarzenegger also one of those to pay his respects
Former President Bill Clinton, taking a break from his wife's campaign, attended Ali's public funeral  to give a eulogy

Former President Bill Clinton, taking a break from his wife's campaign, attended Ali's public funeral to give a eulogy
Boxing gloves with well wishes are left at a makeshift memorial for late boxing champion Ali in Louisville

Boxing gloves with well wishes are left at a makeshift memorial for late boxing champion Ali in Louisville


She spoke with eloquent authority — ‘the rich and powerful were drawn to him but he was drawn to the poor’ — and shed a tear only when his daughters followed her into the pulpit.
The prayers were led by an imam of the Islamic belief to which Ali had converted from his Baptist upbringing. But the voices of Catholic and Mormon priests, Jewish rabbis, Buddhist chanters and native American chiefs were heard, too.
Ali had outraged America when he first linked arms with the Black Muslim leaders of the Nation of Islam in the Civil Rights struggle and then denounced the notion of the newly liberated black man integrating with his old white oppressors.
To this day he has his critics for that alliance and for his refusal of induction into the US army in protest against the Vietnam war.
Yet he crossed his Rubicon many years ago — from the wrong side of public opinion to the right side of history — and it was he who ordained this inter-faith communion. The boy whose resentment of segregation had been stoked when he was refused service in a whites-only diner even as he returned from Rome with his Olympic medal, evolved into a unifying figure for all people.
 Hana Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali, throws flowers as she rides in her father's funeral procession while it enters Cave Hill Cemetery

 Hana Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali, throws flowers as she rides in her father's funeral procession while it enters Cave Hill Cemetery
Obama had recalled Ali’s upset slaying of the Liston bear to win his first world championship, saying: ‘He shook up the world and it was good for the world that he did.’
Yet it was fitting that rather than America’s first black president, it was a former white occupant of the Oval Office who spoke of Ali’s importance to the world.
In that choice, as in every detail, Ali had choreographed his own memorial. His family remained faithful to his wish to reach out to as wide and varied a population as possible, one last time.
In the neglectful absence of a delegate from the Palace of Westminster or so much as a message of sympathy from Windsor Castle, Lennox Lewis stood tall for Britain and strong to help Mike Tyson, Will Smith and Ali’s family and friends carry the coffin from the end of the procession to the grave in Cave Hill Cemetery.
At dinner the night before, when we all told our stories, Lewis remembered: ‘One day Muhammad whispered in my ear “I used to be the champ but you’re the champ now” and I told him “you will always be The Greatest”.’
George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Larry Holmes and lifelong rival promoters Don King and Bob Arum were among ring royalty in attendance.
It was King who had the vision to take Ali and Foreman to Zaire for their Rumble in the Jungle. As Muhammad prepared to land the most outrageous knockout of all time, the African people flocked to him chanting ‘Ali, bomaye.’ It sounded lyrical but it translates as ‘Ali, kill him.’ Both combatants lived to become the greatest friends.
There were some 300 of the rich and famous here. There were Ali admirers from most every corner of Earth. Yet, rightly so, the worshipful majority of the 15,500 congregation in the arena and the vast assembly in the streets were citizens of the blue grass state of Kentucky. The single largest constituency were from the gun-plagued West End neighbourhood, where the cortege paused briefly among ecstatic residents outside the small, pink, clapboard house in which Ali grew up and which has just been refurbished as one of his museums. Just in time.
Grand Avenue is the incongruous name of that street which symbolised the divide between the white haves and the black have-nots. It is reached by crossing an old railway line. Ali came from the wrong side of those tracks. His roots forever remain there, as does the community which watched with pride as he left to box for his fame and to fight for their freedom from the tyranny of racial prejudice.
They lined that pot-holed thoroughfare to bid their hero farewell.
Some wept openly and unashamed. This iconic figure was the spirit of Louisville and the losing of him leaves so many voids here. As it does in countless lives around the world to which his legacy belongs.
Others, many children among them, waved their flags, flew their balloons, hoisted their pictures of him and their placards writ large with loving tributes. They strew the path of his hearse with rose petals and smothered it with flowers, ran alongside it, reached to touch its windows.
Bitter-sweet.
‘Ali, Ali, Ali,‘ they chorused. Members of the family rolled down the windows of their limousines to wave and smile their appreciation.
Grief and thanksgiving.
Many men, young and old, wore suits and ties of respect despite the heat. Some ladies donned their Sunday best, the kaleidoscopic colours of their dresses made all the more dazzling by the 90-degree sun in which Ali’s rite of passage basked.
A veritable melting pot.
The procession started an hour late and on the motorway section of the route the drivers accelerated to make up time. Lonnie instructed them to slow.
What was the hurry as her husband completed a fateful trilogy? Where were you when John F Kennedy died? Where were you when Princess Diana died? Where were you when Muhammad Ali died?
Security was as tight as the steel doors to the vaults in Fort Knox slammed shut.
Television network helicopters were instructed to observe a no-fly zone over the cemetery so that Ali’s three surviving wives, his seven daughters and two sons and collection of grandchildren could observe the committal in privacy.
In the extended wait before the memorial service, the Secret Service conducted bomb sweeps. When the doors of the KFC Yum Centre opened — Louisville is the home of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Colonel Sanders is buried near Ali — no backpacks, no electronic equipment, no bags were allowed.
Random searches were conducted in the squares where locals as well as out-of-towners arriving too late to acquire tickets gathered in large numbers to watch it all on giant screens.
Such is the world Ali departs. Yet in death, Ali was still drawing the crowds.
Once, as he made his way to a world championship ring through especially fervent fans, he felt a tug on his white robe.
He glanced back and enquired: ‘Who touched the hem of my garment?’
Perhaps, this Sunday morning, they should roll back the rock at the entrance to his cave on that hill and check inside. Just in case.
Lennox Lewis helped lay his idol to rest.
To rest in peace? Not so sure. Listen closely and one day soon we may hear the Louisville Lip proclaiming: ‘I shook up the Heavens.’
Meanwhile, no matter which celestial power you worship, commend unto it this brilliant soul.
Hail Cassius.
Allah be merciful.
Ali bomaye.
God bless The Greatest.

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