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No Vietcong ever called me nigger

The Greatest - courtesy of Laila Alì

The Greatest – courtesy of Laila Alì

“No Vietcong ever called me nigger ..”
With these words, in 1967, Muhammed Ali refused to go to war in Vietnam. He was called to serve in the US Army, but he decided to make a stand against that: a brave choice that brought with it a lot of consequences on his life and boxing career. He was 25, in 1967, at the shining top of his career and the undisputed heavyweight Champion of the World.

The Greatest

The Greatest

By the way, actually, he would have not gone to real war. The US government and the boxing federation had proposed a golden deal to him, while serving in the Army. He would have toured army camps in the US and Vietnam, to sign autographs for soldiers and fans: young men that, after training camp, would be sent to fight the Vietcongs. The deal was quite a good one: after a few months Alì would have  been sent back home with full honors, and in the meantime he would continue to hold the title of world heavyweight champion.

But Muhammed Ali had a different temper than other celebrities, which used fame in their sporting career to support American troops while in combat worldwide.

He was not only the greatest fighter of all time, but he was a great fighter for freedom, civil rights, peace. Even the name change from the given one, Cassius Clay, had been – for him – due not only to the conversion to Islam, but also a rejection of a  name that came from slavery.

For his refuse of serving in the Army, Muhammad Ali was sentenced to five years in prison, stripped of his world champion title and suspended by USA boxing federation.

For being a man with principles and value, he lost everything he had, but with his strenght as a man and  as a fighter,  and his outstanding courage, he got everything back.

He eventually obtained, after years of legal struggle,  the recognition of his right to objection to military service, and was then admitted back to boxing.

In 1974 – in Congo – he regained the world title – at 32 – after an epic fight with George Foreman.

He has been fighting for years his hardest fight with his disease, which he won too, since he stayed with us until now, giving the pleasure to young generations to learn from his ideas and opinions, which he shared through his public initiatives, and with the help of his family, his daughter Laila just to remember one we love.

It is a sad day, this damn june the 4th, 2016, however we all have mixed feelings of sadness and happiness, for he gave us – always – the best. Since – simply – he was, he is, The Greatest.

  • The Greatest - courtesyof Laila Alì

    The Greatest – courtesy of Laila Alì

     

” Nessun Vietcong mi ha mai chiamato negro..”
Con queste parole nel 1967 Muhammed Alì rifiutò di partire per la guerra in Vietnam. In realtà non avrebbe fatto nessuna guerra. Il governo USA e le federazione pugilistica gli avevano proposto un servizio militare dorato. Avrebbe girato per le caserme e gli accampamenti a firmare autografi ai soldati che poi sarebbero andati a combattere i partigiani vietnamiti e dopo pochi mesi sarebbe stato rimpatriato con tutti gli onori, nel frattempo avrebbe continuato a detenere il titolo di campione del mondo dei pesi massimi.
Ma Muhammed Ali era di altra tempra rispetto ai personaggi dello spettacolo e dello sport usati come sostegno alle truppe americane in guerra in tutti gli angoli del mondo. Egli non era solo il più grande combattente sul ring di tutti i tempi, ma era un grandissimo combattente per la libertà, i diritti civili, la pace. Anche il cambio del nome da quello anagrafico di Cassius Clay era stato da lui motivato non solo con la conversione all’Islam, ma con il rifiuto del nome che veniva dalla schiavitú.
Per questo suo rifiuto della guerra Muhammad Alì fu condannato a cinque anni di carcere e poi destituito dal titolo e sospeso dalla federazione pugilistica USA. Per i suoi principi e valori perse tutto, ma con la sua tempra di combattente e il suo coraggio tutto riconquistò.
Ottenne alla fine da un giudice il riconoscimento del suo diritto alla obiezione di coscienza e poi fu reintegrato nella boxe. Nel 1974 in Congo riconquistò il titolo mondiale in un epico combattimento con Foreman.
Grazie Muhammed Ali , che la terra ti sia leggera.

(testo originale italiano di Giorgio Cremaschi, testo inglese di Massimo Zucchetti).

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