Mohammed Ali became not just the greatest boxer of all time, but also the best athlete of the 20th century according to the BBC. His influence extended far beyond the size of the boxing ring.
After winning his first big fight – against Sonny Liston – Cassius Clay declared himself the greatest of all time. Since then he has repeatedly shocked audiences not only in the ring, but also on a planetary scale. All this has created his legacy and the right to be considered the greatest of all time.
Today, every sport has its GOAT, but perhaps the most worthy is still Ali. He has put his principles above money and even his career all his life.
Ali is the first athlete in history to become a global star. He is like Gagarin, only in sports
OnePoll, a marketing research company, conducted a poll in March 2019 among Americans on the most annoying slang word. First place went to the word GOAT. It’s an acronym that stands for Greatest Of All Time. By the way, the word goat is translated from English as a goat, so in the social networks a goat emoji is placed to a particular athlete.
The word was introduced by the greatest boxer of all time – Mohamed Ali. In February 1964, after his sensational career victory in his first fight against Sonny Liston, he said right in the ring one of the most legendary phrases: “I am the Greatest”.
It is important to understand that Ali became more than just a new sports star overnight. In terms of charisma and achievement, he was hardly inferior to guys like Diego Maradona, Michael Jordan, Roger Federer or Pele.
The difference between them and Ali was that they were all simply megastars of their time. Mohammed Ali fought not only his opponents in the ring, but also the state in court over the Vietnam War, and fought for black rights. Even Parkinson’s disease only overcame him in the 33rd year of their confrontation. Mohammad completely changed the idea of what an athlete outside the ring was capable of.
Jordan, for example, was ridiculed for his unwillingness to even talk about politics. A telling case occurred during the 1990 elections. In his home state of North Carolina, Michael refused to support Democrat Harvey Gant, an African-American who was running against Republican incumbent Jesse Helms, a known racist. Jordan, who at the time had already won the first of his five NBA MVP awards, explained his refusal to take a stance by saying that “Republicans buy trainers too”.
Ali was one of the symbols of the struggle of African Americans for their rights in the USA. The king of football, Pele, was criticised by millions of Brazilians for being apolitical and ignoring the social problems faced by blacks amid the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985.
Pele has repeatedly stated that all Brazilians are treated equally, even despite the obvious racial inequalities. For the most part, Pele has simply not commented on the racial issue.
Even now, the football legend does not take a certain stance, drawing the ire of Brazilians:
“Let’s forget all this unrest in Brazil, all these protests and remember that the Brazilian team is our country and our blood.”
In this respect, Ali is Yuri Gagarin among athletes. Only someone who not only scores the most goals, not someone who has the most followers on Instagram, but someone whose story has an element of overcoming not only himself, over his life situation, but also over the system, can put himself in the same category.
Just a dozen years after the end of Ali’s career, Mike Tyson could have joined the ranks of the Greatest, but his image ruined him – his addiction to drugs, alcohol and time in prison.
Floyd Mayweather has called himself greater than Ali. His arguments are absurd and the public hated him
Amazingly, even at the height of his fame, Ali was not turned on his head by big money and popularity. Having embraced Islam, he remained humble and benevolent outside the ring. He travelled around the world, gave various master-classes, often visited prisons, orphanages, penitentiaries, where his mere presence changed destinies of people. This included Mike Tyson.
The attitude and perception of the public towards the athlete is another important argument for the GOAT title. Even his toughest opponent in the ring, Joe Frazier, forgave The Greatest many humiliations after many years of their confrontation. Joe realized that all this contributed to the extra promotion of their fights, which became perhaps the greatest rivalry in the history of the sport.
After their third fight, which went down in history as ‘Thriller in Manila’, Ali called Fraser the best boxer in history. After himself, of course. Ali was not just liked, he was genuinely loved and adored by tens and hundreds of millions of people around the world.
What cannot be said about the boxer who has the record and has made much more money – Floyd Mayweather. Despite his success in the ring, Floyd has always been arrogant, boastful, cultivating his own lifestyle. But what shocked the public the most was when Mayweather said he thought he was greater than Mohammed Ali.
“By what criteria do we judge a boxer? If we are talking about fighting for our own ideals, Ali is the best. But if we talk about missing as few punches as possible and breaking records, then it’s Floyd Mayweather.
Mohammed Ali is a legend. He paved the way for me to be where I am now. But when we talk about records and track records, many people forget that Ali lost his title to a boxer with seven fights. I hats off to Ali, but I didn’t give my 40 years to boxing to say there is a better fighter than me,” Floyd said.
All this has caused a flurry of criticism both in the media and among fans of the sport. Floyd forgets a very important detail. A clean record from defeat does not mean that you are a better boxer. On the contrary, in boxing a defeat, if a fighter has managed to get stronger afterwards, only adds to greatness.
That’s why he never understood why in America even non-Americans like Roberto Duran or Manny Pacquiao would be much more loved by the common boxing fans than he is. In the course of their careers they have repeatedly overcome difficulties, beating, above all, themselves.
Vladimir Klitschko in 2003, after another winless defeat, was written off absolutely, but he came back, started working with Emanuel Stewart, who made him a win machine for a decade. Vitali Klitschko finished his career because of an injury, but four years later he came back and decimated the then strongest pugilist Samuel Pieter.
Tyson Fury, after beating Wladimir Klitschko, disappeared from sight for three years, hooked on cocaine and alcohol, gained 50kg in weight, but returned and defeated the most dangerous knockout artist of our time, Deontay Wilder. All this Mayweather never had. And those are just a few examples over the past years.
Floyd always chose suitable opponents and fought them at the perfect time for him. Even with Manny Pacquiao he fought when the Filipino was clearly not at his peak. But Pacquiao is back and now he’s rocking it like he did in his younger days, when the American himself is long retired.
Maysver has never had a fight comparable to Ali vs Fraser, or Ali vs Foreman, or Ali vs Liston. Therefore, such remarks by Floyd are only irritating. Some people simply hate Mayweather just for putting himself above The Greatest. In the current era of cultivating financial success and the number of followers on social media, there is no question of the history that Mohammed Ali had.
Which means GOAT is just about him.