So when the vampiric Leon Spinks shocked the world by outpointing Ali in 1977, it was a cause for celebration. And when Ali got revenge in the rematch, it was to be expected.
The underlying story, however, was that when someone like Ali loses to someone like Spinks, it’s time to hang up the gloves up. Yet Ali kept going, trudging through a series of embarrassments. By the time Trevor Berbick finally pummeled him into retirement in 1981, it was hard to hate on Ali anymore. He seemed like just another sad pugilist who’d hung around long past his due date.
It was also increasingly obvious to most observers that Ali was becoming what was then known as “punch drunk.” The more technical terms was dementia pugilistica. Today it’s it’s called CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopahty), the form of brain damage that makes parents think twice about letting their kids play football.
As I came of age during the 1980s, I learned more about Ali, née Cassius Clay. As a boxing fan, I came to appreciate that he was, in fact, almost certainly the greatest heavyweight of all time, and undoubtedly one of the greatest boxers of any class.
But far more interesting was the life he lived outside the ring. Continue reading In Memoriam: Muhammad Ali