Follow the Trace | It’s not even close
Muhammad Ali is without a single modicum of doubt the greatest prizefighter in the history of the sport of boxing.
The legend, who passed away this week at age 74, was voted the Sportsman of the Century and is arguably the greatest sportsman ever across all sports.
While the debate will flourish with the comparisons across sports, there can be no credible contradiction to Ali being the greatest man to have even donned a pair of boxing gloves. We celebrate the life and achievements of this eccentric maestro not just of sport, but of humanity.
I turn my mind back to the recent conversations ignited by unbeaten welterweight kingpin Floyd Mayweather Jr that the man who calls himself ‘Money Mayweather’, and who has the distinction of winning world titles across five divisions, is greater than Ali.
That very thought was outlandish then and should be elevated now to criminal status.
Using typical Google analytics, Mayweather’s claim and those who agreed with him are riding on his 49 and 0 record, compared to Ali’s 56 and 5.
HOW HISTORY IS RECORDED
The genuine concern I have is about the integrity of how history is recorded.
One hundred years from now when some young researchers look at Ali’s record and compare it with Mayweather’s record, they could easily conclude that pound for pound Mayweather was greater than Ali.
How far is that from the truth?
Muhammad Ali was the king of self-promotion. He was not just a boxer, he was an activist, a leader and a hero for the oppressed people of the world.
Ali lived and fought in a time when the challenges in and out of the ring were many. He not only fought the fighters in the ring, he fought segregation, he fought racism, and he beat them all.
All that aside, it is his skill as a fighter that sets him miles apart. There is no greater entertainer in the boxing than Muhammad Ali, when you look at the magnitude of his achievements and the way he went about his business and the quality of opponents he beat.
The name, Floyd Mayweather, does not belong in the same conversation with Muhammad Ali.
This, of course, has nothing to do with the romanticising of an era. For the record, when Ali won his Olympic gold medal as an 18-year-old in 1960 and won the first of his three heavyweight titles by beating the then unbeatable Sony Liston in 1964, I was not even born. From what I saw on film of the great man in his prime, I am convinced there was none greater.
What sets Muhammad Ali apart was the way he fought. In his words, he floated like a butterfly and he stung like a bee, he was grace personified in the boxing ring. In addition to his style and flair, he had the heart of the true champion he was.
The fact that he transcended the sport of boxing to become a worldwide celebrity is just a by-product of his boxing greatness.
As we celebrate the life of this genius, I hope the debate will now end forever.
It is not even close, Muhammad Ali is indeed THE GREATEST.