I must wish the greatest of all time a very happy 70th birthday. Ali was and is an icon who has transcended his role as a boxer to become something very much more. He is a world wide celebrity who turned his skill in the ring into a force for change and good. You didn’t always have to agree with Ali to recognize the immense talent that he had, as a boxer and as a human being.
Ali produced some of the most electrifying moments in all of sports history, starting with his monumental upset of Sonny Liston (the bear), through his three epic battles with Smoking Joe Frazier, and his glorious upset of the heavily favored George Foreman at the Rumble in the Jungle. As a student at UMass Amherst I missed the Foreman fight, but when the result came in the entire campus erupted in joy. Ali entered the ring against Foreman with most expecting him to be clubbed into submission by the hard hitting Foreman, who had not lost up to that point, winning most of his fights by early round knockouts. Ali had other plans, employing what he later described as his “rope a dope” strategy, laying on the ropes and inviting Foreman in to flail away at him. Foreman took the invitation, but could not land a decisive blow, wearing himself down and allowing Ali to come off those ropes in the eighth and knock Foreman out. It was an amazing display, made even more amazing by the way Ali co-opted the crowd in Zaire, turning them against Foreman and leading them between rounds in the chant of “Ali, Bomaye”(Ali, Kill him). Foreman was partially beaten before he even stepped in the ring. Ali’s career is so extensive, and his boxing feats so astounding, that a simple blog posting cannot do him justice. But the day he beat Foreman Ali did indeed “shock the world”. Happy Birthday Ali!