No baseball column today. I don’t want to write one.
My heart is too full of thoughts of Muhammad Ali, the Greatest, who passed away late last night in Arizona.
As a boy, while I preferred punchers like Frazier and Foreman, there was no denying the greatness of Ali. The toughest part was, his best fights were on closed-circuit TV which was out of reach for a kid from Jersey. Only with the appearance of Classic Sports (now ESPN Classic,) did I ever see the two Sonny Liston fights, the first and third Frazier fight and his artistic display against Big George Foreman. The best Ali fight on free TV was against Earnie Shavers in September 1977 at a packed Madison Square Garden. Shavers could punch, maybe as hard as Foreman and by now Ali’s reflexes weren’t what they had been even 3 years earlier. But somehow he made Shavers miss enough and landed enough of his own to win a close decision. After that it got a little sad, then a lot sad, then tragic. The loss to Leon Spinks, barely out of the amateurs, then the win to get his crown back, then two fights anybody sane would not have sanctioned against Holmes and Berbich. The Berbich fight had to be staged in the Bahamas, since by then no US boxing commission would grant Ali a license to fight. Not so long after that last fight we found out the Greatest had Parkinson’s. Late in the ’80’s my brother-in-law met him at the Newark post office. It was haard to communicate with the champ by then but just meeting him was enough. Now, ESPN Classic will probably rerun most, or all of the best fights from Ali’s long career, and there were many. R I P champ.
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