Of course he was the heavyweight champion of the world who turned boxing into a mainstream event with his bouts peppering the sixties and the seventies like interruptions into real but was so much more.
As a seventies kid Ali was part of the fabric of our times. He was part of the folk tradition and fabric of the TV age of our youth as much as Bowie, george Best, Bolan, the moon landings and Dr. Who. He was an icon who permeated our generation with stay up late TV with his sporting skill and mainstream media and message and a collussus whose ring skills were matched by his beyond the ring iconic status.
Ali was a pop culture icon – one of the few who transcended his chosen path and entered the world beyond. Who could forget those media appearances, the Parkinson’s interviews that where bristling with a smouldering anger and yet were tempered with that sweet humour and bountiful charm? Ali, like Bruce Lee, was a superstar who took a martial art into stuffy seventies class rooms and introduced new ideas into conservative seventies worlds. He was a wake up call and a beautiful man who really did punch well above his weight in world status terms and was the ultimate rebel who fought the law and, this time, the law lost.
Ali, somehow managed to mirror and drive his times – he represented black consciousness as it broke free from the oppressive apartheid of sixties America. Every fight was a statement , every interview an opportunity. Somehow with his charm he told the truth and despite his boxing perfection it was his life beyond the ring that was the ultimate testament.
His battle with his illness was his ultimate fight. The dignity of how of this giant of a man humbled by a medical condition that he fought with humour grace was his longest 15 rounds and his final inspiration.