How Muhammad Ali rocked the world
It's a day I will never forget. On February 16, 1978, a Thursday, mum and dad allowed my brother and I to skip school.
Like so many others, school was a top priority for my strict parents, but on this day, Muhammad Ali was more important.
They allowed my 10-year-old brother and I, only eight, to stay home and watch Ali's fight with Leon Spinks "live" on RTM TV.
We all loved The Greatest.
He lost, and everyone was sad.
He won the rematch seven months later, and the family cheered and laughed.
Yesterday Ali died, but somehow you believe he will forever float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.
He danced when boxing and you wondered how such a big man could be so graceful.
He was an athletic specimen at his peak, making women swoon and men envious.
The heavyweight was unlike any other, lean, chiselled, cheeky, funny, sexy and smart.
He could also unleash such controlled punishment with his fists, a blur of movement a scribe so famously described as artistic violence.
Because of Ali boxing had its golden age, because of Ali we will always have such unforgettable theatre like The Fight of the Century, The Rumble in the Jungle and the Thrilla' in Manila.
Because of Ali, basketball superstar LeBron James, an African-American, says he can do what he does.
Because of Ali, so many implore Jordan and Tiger, Serena and LeBron, to speak up loudly on social issues.
But surely never with his eloquence.
He rhymed and rapped and entertained millions outside of the ring, he mocked opponents, he beat them in the heavyweight contest of minds, he argued courageously against a government, and stood by his belief, even if it meant boxing would be lost to him.
He was Cassius Clay, a talented youngster who conquered Olympic gold in Rome for the United States, he declared himself Muhammad Ali, a Muslim, just after he shook the world by flooring the menacing Sonny Liston
He became the most famous person in the world, admired, hero-worshipped, copied.
He was brave, he never shirked a challenge and fought giants like Frazier, Norton and Foreman.
He suffered terribly for his work.
In Kinshasa, Zaire, his tactic was to actually absorb a savage beating by Foreman and tire the giant out, he somehow managed to stay standing and felled the previously unbeatable champion in Round 8 with a lightning combination to once again astound the world.
And then peed blood.
In Ali-Frazier III, he almost passed out with exhaustion in the suffocating heat and humidity of the Manila night.
Many felt he should have retired then.
But only Ali decides when Ali wants to go.
No one knows when Parkinson's took hold within the magnificent Ali.
But after boxing he continued to light up lives.
World leaders wanted to meet him, Obama wrote an essay on him, Mandela, Clinton and Bush all honoured him.
Great athletes were humbled by him, stars wanted a picture with him.
An Olympics caught fire because of him.
There will never be another like him.
I missed a day of school 38 years ago, for The Greatest.
And my parents were fine.
“At a time when blacks who spoke up about injustice were labelled uppity and often arrested, Muhammad willingly sacrificed the best years of his career to stand tall and fight for what he believed was right. In doing so, he made all Americans, black and white, stand taller. I may be 7-feet-2 but I never felt taller than when standing in his shadow.”
— Retired NBA all-time scoring leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar