WPPB

MUHAMMAD "Cassius Marcellus Clay was a grand old name" ALI by Michael Mackey, Morning Edition Host

Jun 10, 2016

After a week of mourning the death and glorifying the life of 20th century sport's greatest name, the boxer's celebrated body will be laid to rest Friday; June 10, 2016...exactly 74 years, 4 months, and 24 days since his birth in Louisville, Kentucky; about 53 years since John, my best 5th grade friend and coolest kid in Manetuck Elementary School, told me about an exciting, young, up and coming fighter who predicts the round in which he'll win the fight! {John also first informed me back then about the next big thing in music; a long haired band in Britain which would soon make America feel happy inside}; 52 years, 3 months, and 16 days since I watched undefeated heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano somberly say that he really liked this young man, that his talent and ebullient personality were just what the fight game needed. But, at barely 22 years of age the kid wasn't ready to step into the ring with powerful champion Sonny Liston. Marciano sadly stating to Channel 7's Howard Cosell that he wasn't looking forward to the beating the boy would soon get. Later that Tuesday night (2/25/1964) my 11 year old self, well past bedtime, stayed quietly awake under his covers, transistor radio to ear listening with silent joy while a delightfully unexpected legend unfolded, forever changing the wide world of sports; 45 years, 3 months, and 2 days since I viewed "The Fight of the Century" featuring 2 undefeated champs on large screen closed circuit TV transmitted live from Madison Square Garden. In the roaring Rochester Memorial Auditorium that night (3/8/1971) white folk yelled loudly for Joe Frazier while people of color...and a handful of us long haired college students...cheered and suffered for the loser, who in our hearts remained ever the champion; and nearly 20 years after the most controversial athlete of his era - both adored and despised in his physical prime - now universally beloved by all, trembled in nobility while dramatically lighting the 1996 Olympic cauldron.

During the funeral of a baby born Cassius Marcellus Clay and the adult who lived and died proudly as Muhammad Ali, I shall remember fondly the friends and family with whom I have shared the famous man's illustrious life and times; including the Parkinson's patient whose living legacy I most admire - my mom. Fight on and right on Dot Mackey!

The story of Muhammad Ali has been told many times in many ways. This EYES ON THE PRIZE (Part 11) "Ain't Gonna Shuffle No More / 1964 - 1972 {segment = 2:45 - 21:07} features one of my favorite tellings of the Ali saga.