He was butterfly and bee. In the ring, he floated and stung.
In 1967, Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, refused to put on a uniform.
“Got nothing against no Viet Cong,” he said. “Ain’t no Vietnamese ever called me nigger.”
They called him a traitor. They sentenced him to a five-year jail term, and barred him from boxing. They stripped him of his title as champion of the world.
The punishment became his trophy. By taking away his crown, they anointed him king.
Years later, a few college students asked him to recite something. And for them he improvised the shortest poem in world literature:
From Mirrors (Nation Books, 2009), a history of humanity in 366 episodes
1967 — Muhammad Ali refuses to be drafted to fight in Vietnam: “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.”
Although Ali is not charged or arrested for violating the Selective Service Act — much less convicted — the New York State Athletic Commission & World Boxing Association suspends his boxing license and strips him of his heavyweight title in May of 1967, minutes after he officially announces he will not submit to induction.
On June 20th, a federal court convicts Ali for violating the Selective Service Act, handing him a fine and a five-year prison sentence. In 1971, the Supreme Court unanimously overturns the conviction. Ali regained his title in 1974, defeating George Foreman in Zaire.
By CHARLES R. SAUNDERS*
PAUL MACDOUGALL’s recently published book, Distinction Earned: Cape Breton’s Boxing Legends 1946-1970, chronicles the exploits of an exceptional group of gloved warriors from one of the smallest Canadian provinces. As well, it’s about the last years of a time when boxing was part and parcel of the community, rather than the niche sport it has become today.
From the beginning of the last century up to the late 1960s, boxing was a dominant sport in North America. In the United States, it shared the spotlight with baseball. In Canada, it was second only to hockey. Continue reading
By ED STODDARD, Shunpiking Magazine, 3rd Annual Black History Supplement, No. 24, 1999
LAST FEBRUARY, while visiting the sweltering slum town of Banjarmasin on the island of Bornco, I came across a group of young Indonesian boys sparring by the river bank. Jokingly, I told them that they were like Muhammad Ali and held my fist up, readied for mock combat. The boys needed no further prompting. Immediately, they began shouting “Muhammad Ali!” and Ali-like, they began dancing and firing left jabs at each other. Continue reading