Saturday, June 04, 2016

Boxer Muhammad Ali, the Greatest, Is Dead at 74

Heartbroken to read that Muhammad Ali is now floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee in that big boxing ring in the sky, passing away Friday night after suffering from Parkinson's disease and spinal stenosis for years, 

This 1970s gem now resides in my parents' garage!

It's hard to quantify what a huge part of life the former Cassius Clay was for people of a certain age, as the three-time heavyweight champion was truly a living legend who transcended his profession at a time when sports, politics, race and class were all colliding. Although Ali was not my hero, he was my hero once removed, as my brother Bill worshiped him -- the three of us boys always had our own thing, so Terence picked George Foreman and Ken Norton was my guy -- with posters on his bedroom walls, a bulletin board featuring his own ranking system, action figures and back issues of The Ring magazine strewn about the place. 

My father and his twin, Kenny, duke it out ...

Topping it off, of course, was that our pre-racket-club years were spent training at the Crowell Recreation Center in Detroit (proper). I was 8 at the time and had to keep up with my big brothers, despite the risk of bodily harm. Believe it or not, we come from a long line of boxers, so despite not growing up with the Walshes, it was in our blood. (Ironically, Muhammad Ali set up his training camp in Deer Lake, Pennsylvania, in 1972 right before my dad returned to Schuylkill County following his brain injury.) While it's true there have been other boxers who were household names in the decades since Ali's heyday, there will never be another that matches his level of showmanship, personality and international superstardom. RIP, sir. You truly were The Greatest.

That's my brother Terence and me sparring briefly (note my Kristy McNichol haircut) before my brother Bill's big match against David Stubbs, in April 1976. The ref stopped it after the second round, but you gotta love my brother's slimming green tank -- he doesn't look an ounce over 88 pounds!

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