News, Sports

Muhammad Ali: Float Like A Butterfly…

Muhammad Ali. Image: Ira Rosenberg
Muhammad Ali. Image: Ira Rosenberg

Every sport has an icon: one person who defines what that sport looks, sounds, and feels like. In the boxing world, there is no single fighter who could be said to have a greater claim to that title than Muhammad Ali.

Ali changed the sport of boxing, flipped it on its head, and, in so doing became the inspiration of all the young boxers who followed in his “butterfly-like” footsteps.

But Muhammad Ali also changed the way athletes were regarded. Unlike his peers, Ali sought out reporters and unabashedly talked trash about his opponents, wrote stinging one-liners, and gave embarrassing nicknames to his challengers.

His confidence, bordering on arrogance, took–and shook–the world by storm, and, although they may not have liked it, few could disagree with his skill, power, strength, and unrelenting determination.

When describing himself in the ring, he once famously said that he would, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” That phrase didn’t just describe his boxing; it described his life.

Clay vs. Liston. Image: State Library and Archives of Florida
Clay vs. Liston. Image: State Library and Archives of Florida

In the 1960s and ’70s, Ali was one of the most interesting and exciting sports personalities in the world.

He stood up for many things he believed in. He was against war, and shockingly refused to join the military to fight the Vietnam War even though this would mean losing his title and being banned from the sport of boxing for three years.

He also joined a religious sect called the Lost-Found Nation of Islam. He changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali because of his religion and because he believed “Cassius Clay” was his “slave” name.

Ali very publicly stood up for the rights of black Americans during a time in history when doing so could be very dangerous.

He was afraid of nothing. In his toughest fight–his fight with Parkinson’s disease–Ali battled courageously and fiercely for 32 years.

Ali vs. Frazier. Image: Lorenzo9378
Ali vs. Frazier. Image: Lorenzo9378

In his storied career, Ali won many titles, prizes, medals, and awards, including the light heavyweight champion (1959, 1960), Gold (1960 Rome Olympics), and world heavyweight champion (1964, 1974, 1978). His record was a staggering 56 wins – 5 losses.

Muhammad Ali died June 3, in Arizona. He was 74.

By Jonathan Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
When Muhammad Ali decided that he would not go to fight in Vietnam, he was only 25 years old. Many people at the time believed he was a coward for not going to war. However; many other people believed he was brave to stand for what he believed in. Have you ever had to decide between what you believed in and what other people wanted you to do? What did you do? How did you make your decision? Was your decision the right one?

Reading Prompt: Elements of Style
Today’s article was written by Joyce Grant AND Jonathan Tilly. Writing an article with a partner can be challenging but it can also be very rewarding. What do you think are the pros (good) and cons (bad) of trying to write with a partner?

Identify some elements of style, including voice, word choice, and different types of sentences, and explain how they help readers understand texts (OME, Reading: 2.4).

Identify various elements of style – including word choice and the use of similes, personification, comparative adjectives, and sentences of different types, lengths, and structures – and explain how they help communicate meaning (OME, Reading: 2.4).

Identify various elements of style – including foreshadowing, metaphor, and symbolism – and explain how they help communicate meaning and enhance the effectiveness of texts (OME, Reading: 2.4).

Language Feature: Trash Talk
Ali was known for his big, engaging personality. He would often use poetry and rhyme to describe an upcoming fight–and always how he was going to win. Some of my personal favourite lines were spoken in the months leading up to “The Rumble in Jungle” against George Foreman in Zaire,

 ‘I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale, handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean I make medicine sick.’

Think you’ve got a chance to be the greatest? Try writing some of your own Ali-style trash talk.