I am a mountain
I am a tall tree
Oh, I am a swift wind
Sweepin’ the country
I am a river
Down in the valley
Oh, I am a vision
And I can see clearly

If anybody asks you who I am
Just stand up tall, look ’em in the face and say

I’m that star up in the sky
I’m that mountain peak up high
Hey, I made it
I’m the worlds greatest
And I’m that little bit of hope
When my back’s against the ropes
I can feel it mmm
I’m the world’s greatest

Source: www.azlyrics.com

Watch the song here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgcovIu3k9o

This is the opening verse to R.Kelly’s song I’m the world’s greatest released in February 2002 in honour of Muhammad Ali, who made significant contributions to the world of boxing. Condolences continue to pour following the demise of the man termed as Sports Personality of the Century by the BBC.

ali and liston

Ali standing over Liston after knocking him to the floor during their first match in 1965.

Image credits: Daily Mail.

At a very young age of 22, he was able to floor Sonny Liston who was by then a dominating force to reckon with to lift the world heavyweight championship. You cannot mention Ali’s name and fail to talk about The Fight of the Century held at the Garden, New York in 1971 pitting him against Joe Frazier and The Rumble in the Jungle, a match which was conducted in Kinshasa, Zaire in 1974.

ali and mobutu

Ali and Zaire President Joseph Mobutu during the build-up to The Rumble in the Jungle match in 1974.

Image credits: Daily Mail.

The Fight of the Century was of much significance as it was conducted shortly after Ali’s return from exile and a comeback to boxing. The period between 1967-70 was marked with Ali staying away from the sport due to his firm stand against Vietnam War. He even refused to join the American army and as a consequence was stripped his passport and denied a boxing licence. He did not despair and out of this challenge he carved himself out as an advocate for the African American pride and racial justice.

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ali nad luther

With Dr. Martin Luther King in March 1967.

Image credits: Daily Mail

The reason why The Fight of the Century was also given much significance is because the two contenders, Ali and Frazier, were both undefeated. The match exhibited mixed reactions and instances of ‘Rope-a-Dope’ strategy were in play. Ali was eventually defeated in this match and that marked his first professional defeat. He however defeated Frazier during their second meeting in 1974.

Ali and Frazier

Ali squaring it out with Frazier during The Fight of the Century.

Image credits: Daily Mail

The Rumble in the Jungle match on the other hand pitted Ali against George Foreman who was by then considered one of the hardest punchers in the history of heavyweight boxing. In Zaire, crowds chanted ‘Ali bomaye!!’ which when translated to English means ‘Ali, kill him!!’. Ali was able to win this match and regain his title by knockout. He adopted the rope-a-dope strategy which involved letting the opponent strike at will while he verbally taunted him. It will be remembered that before the match, Ali exhibited a lot of confidence and was quoted saying: I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale, handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean I make medicine sick.‘ It is with such confidence that he was able to deliver the title home once again.


Ali tramps around the ring after flooring George Foreman in round eight of The Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire in 1974

Image credits: Daily Mail.

The Rumble in the Jungle reminds me of a motivational speaker by the name Pepe Minambo, who is a Congolese by birth, when he visited our high school while I was in form 4 to give us a motivational talk. He used Ali as an example to encourage us that we should believe in ourselves and also have great confidence. It is in confidence that success thrives. A potrayal of Ali’s confidence may be summarized by one of his famous quotes where he said, ‘If you even dream of beating me, you better wake up and apologize.‘ He believed in himself and this made him successful in his boxing career. Such belief in himself at the early stages of his life may be seen where he was quoted saying, I am the greatest, I’m the greatest that ever lived. I don’t have a mark on my face‘, after flooring Liston in 1964. Believing that he was the greatest that ever lived translated into the world recognizing him as The Greatest.

Another great match in which Ali featured was against Ken Norton whom he used to taunt by referring to him as Ken Nothing in March 1973. During this match, Norton broke Ali’s jaw and eventually won the match by split decision. Their second meeting came later that year in September where Ali won by split decision. They would again meet in September 1976 where Ali won by unanimous decison.

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ali and norton 1976

Ali delivering a right hand away against Ken Norton during their 3rd meeting at the Yankee Stadium in 1976.

Image credits: Daily Mail.

Some of the quotable quotes by Ali which we as humans can draw motivation and inspiration are as follows:

If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it. (motivation to achieve).

I’m not the greatest; I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ’em out, I pick the round. (on gaining inspiration to win).

A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted thirty years of his life. (on making progress in life).

I am so fast that last night I turned off the light switch and was in bed before the room was dark. (confidence).

I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion. (on holding on to your vision and enjoying the tough journey to success).

Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even. (on finding motivation during the low moments of our lives).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing. (possibility in everything).

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Don’t count the days; make the days count. (on effective and efficient utilization of the days of our lives).

Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill. (on having a great desire, dreaming big, a clear vision and the will to achieve greatness).

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life. (on risk taking).

It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself. (on having faith in oneself).

Though he is gone, he will forever remain to be a legend not only in the world of sports but also in the world over. His confidence and belief in oneself should serve to motivate and inspire us to have faith in ourselves. The life and times of Muhammad Ali as a champion in the world of boxing reminds us that it is in having faith and confidence in everything and anything that we do that we shall be able to achieve success and greatness.

Rest In Peace The Greatest…

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