Muhammad Ali was the greatest boxer of all time as he has said so many times and that may be, I am not an expert at boxer comparison. He did have 100 amateur wins and was a huge underdog at 22 years old when he knocked out Sonny Liston, who was thought to be unbeatable, to become the heavyweight champion for the first time.
Ten years later at 32 past his prime, he, despite a forced layoff of more than 4 years, knocked out George Foreman, who was thought to be unbeatable at 26 years old, in the prime of his boxing career with a record of 40 wins and no losses (37 by knockout), to again become the heavyweight champion of the world. Muhammad Ali was bigger-than-life, legendary.
Tears have been rolling down my cheeks off and on since I learned of Muhammad Ali’s hospitalization and subsequent death, not because the passing of any human being is a cause for sadness, though it is, and not because we lost a great athlete.
My tears reflect what Muhammad Ali has done since he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He remained Muhammad Ali through over 30 years living with, fighting, dealing with, embracing this horrific disease. He kept his identity. That’s why tears roll down my cheeks, tears of admiration, tears of strength, tears of pride, tears of power, tears of hope. He was the same comedian, magician, showman, family man that he has always been.
Even in the last years of his life, he was able to rise to the occasion when an audience was present, University of Louisville football games, the Sugar Bowl coin flip, his surprise lighting of the olympic torch, among countless other occasions.
The difference that Muhammad Ali made in my life, 15 years with Parkinson’s, is to set aside the fact that I have Parkinson’s and go on living. Be lovable. Inspire others. Be the greatest John Baumann that I can be. I sure am going to give it my best shot because of a man named Muhammad Ali.