NY Times

He Floated Like a Butterfly and Stung Like a Bee: Muhammad Ali Dies at 74

Jun 3, 2016  •  Post A Comment

Calling him a “Titan of Boxing and the 20th Century,” The New York Times reports that Muhammad Ali, 74, has died.

Writes Robert Lipsyte for The Times, “Muhammad Ali, the three-time world heavyweight boxing champion who helped define his turbulent times as the most charismatic and controversial sports figure of the 20th century, died on Friday.”

Ali died at Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center, in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he had been hospitalized on Thursday with respiratory problems. In the early 1980s Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Writes Lipsyte in a long, must-read obituary/profile of Ali, “Ali was as polarizing a superstar as the sports world has ever produced — both admired and vilified in the 1960s and ’70s for his religious, political and social stances. His refusal to be drafted during the Vietnam War, his rejection of racial integration at the height of the civil rights movement, his conversion from Christianity to Islam and the changing of his “slave” name, Cassius Clay, to one bestowed by the separatist black sect he joined, the Lost-Found Nation of Islam, were perceived as serious threats by the conservative establishment and noble acts of defiance by the liberal opposition.

“Loved or hated, he remained for 50 years one of the most recognizable people on the planet.”

The late writer Norman Mailer once wrote about Ali that he is “the swiftest embodiment of human intelligence we have had yet, he is the very spirit of the 20th century.”

Here’s an interesting program featuring Ali that we found on YouTube:


  1. I had met him once. I was 13, and lived on the south side of Chicago. My best friend’s grandfather had died and his grandmother supposedly sold their house to someone famous who bought it through an attorney. One day, my friend, 3 other kids and I were walking past the house, and outside were parked a brand new gold Eldorado and a brand new silver one. We get to talking about how the “famous person” must be there and worked up the nerve to knock on the door. The door opens and this REALLY talk black woman was standing there, and we hear a voice, “Who’s at the door, Belinda?” “5 little white boys!” “Oh yeah? Let me see.” She steps aside, and there stood the heavyweight champion of the world! He had JUST changed his name, but we didn’t know and called him Mr. Clay. He had taken the fireplace out and replaced it with marble, and instead of a fireplace, in the center, was the first color TV I ever saw. To the left of that was a small display cabinet and inside was the heavyweight championship belt. A big gold buckle and a couple of gold adornments on an elastic red white and blue belt about 4″ thick. He saw me looking at it and asked if I wanted to hold it. He casually picked it up as if it were paper and put it in my hand; it almost hit the floor. I had to weigh 30 pounds. For each one of us, he signed an 8 X 10 glossy and gave us each a piece of fan mail that he had received so “each one of you can prove your story, and won’t be called a liar.” Thinking back 52 years, I thought that he was an “older guy” but he had to be either 21 or 22 at the time. He struck me as a kind, genuine, and honestly nice man. “Mr. Clay,” You made an impact in my life. Rest in peace.

  2. I have seen many stories about Ali today and all the great accomplishments that he had. One accomplishment I haven’t seen yet is his contribution to the idea of pay-per-view. Very few people had ever sold out theaters around the country for any live event, much less boxing. But events like the Thriller in Manila and the Rumble in the Jungle set major records around the world for live event viewing. The next time you see Donald Trump getting credited for all of his free media, remember that he learned how to do that from Ali. No one ever played the media like Ali. He was a one man PR team promoting his fights using Howard Cosell as his foil. Truly “The Greatest”.

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