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The Man For All Season and Time


On June 20, 1967 Muhammad Ali was convicted in Houston, Texas, in federal courts for violating the Selective Service Act by refusing induction into the armed services, Here, Voice reader and boxing fan Tony Laforce gives his own take on what Muhammad Ali meant to him while growing up in the East End of London in the 1970s...

I WAS 12 years when the greatest sportsman ever beat George Foreman to regain the world heavyweight championship (October 1974) in what was called Zaire in Africa. There was great joy around the world as Muhammad Ali had always had been recognised as the real champion of people.

It was not because this was the greatest sporting comeback ever; or that it happened on the continent where life began for us all – Africa.

There was global celebration because Ali publicly represented what was the truth and best from our community. It was that cultural family bond; we believed in him as he wanted the very best for us and would never ever betray his community. I loved that there was such a black man because kids like me needed a hero in Hackney, east London in the 70s.

During the 1960s, 70s and 80s there were very few examples, though the media, of heroic black men who could have such an influence. However, Ali was one - and like Mandela - he proved that one man can change the

Ali challenged the distorted values of America’s segregated society, demanding civil rights change to democratically empower Black America; he explained why Islam deserved respect from society.

Culturally, as well as historically, Ali played a significant part in the re-definition of black Americans becoming African Americans.

Ali also changed the boxing technique of all future heavyweight champions and the way any sporting event should be publicised on TV, radio, newspaper and cinema.

Some journeys take longer than others but the legacy of his influence will be felt forever. As wider society began to understand and agree with how Muhammad Ali saw life he became the greatest sporting icon.

Ali became this great global humanitarian to the world bringing happiness, championing working class people who loved this giant of a man.

Ali is now gone from this world, the universe and I would like to think if he could say something he would say: “I know where I’m going. I know the truth and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.”

Muhammad Ali aka 'The Greatest': I miss you already

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