By FRANZ DOUSKEY
Early on, when he was still
Cassius Clay, some called
him the Louisville Lip.
Then he leveled Sonny Liston,
mysterious Las Vegas monolith
as big and illusive as a yeti,
and Clay became Muhammad Ali.
He and I were born a month apart
with significantly different results.
Ali roared on the scene like
thunder sent from the Gods.
When the promoters and tv
networks were throwing money
like confetti, Ali renounced
America's waste of war.
No Vietnam for him or me.
His heavyweight title was
taken away and he got
a prison sentence. I went to Tucson
and set up resistance houses for
men refusing the draft. My Aunt
Emily lay down in front of busses
carrying draftees and she went to
prison. America in disharmony.
But Ali rose from that dark. With
Bundini at his side, they crossed
the rivers of isolation, and
in Zaire, before 100,000 roaring
fans, Ali rope-a-doped George
Foreman in eight rounds and
regained the title, but when was
it that Ali wasn't the champion?
Even now, speech slowed, mind
glowing with wit, magic and
peaceful brilliance, Ali
rises from the decades
of American darkness, our
undeclared Civil War.
Ali taught us to rise
against the odds,
to fight for our beliefs,
which will always cost something,
but will cost us everything
the moment we stop fighting.
When he floated like a butterfly
and stung like a bee, he told us
there has never been and will never
be a face as pretty as his, and when
he says, I am The Greatest,
we never doubt him for a minute.