Muhammid Ali; Pugalist and Poet

by Christopher Xeneopoulos Janus

World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali, is one of the most interesting, and thought provoking persons I've ever met.

I first met Muhammad Ali when Valerie Valentine and I were on lrv Kupcinet's TV show. And, of course, Ali was the star. He specifically asked for a picture of Valerie, and I took a picture of Muhammad Ali and Valerie in a boxing scene. He said "She could have knocked me out."

During the TV show Kup and the champion talked principally about boxing, I remember Ali saying "Boxing made me feel something different. I don't think I'm bragging to say I'm something a little special." As indeed he was, and is.

After every boxing bout, Ali usually made up a verse or two about the fight.

When he beat Floyd Patterson he wrote: "If he would have stayed in Sweden-He wouldn't have took that beatin."

Many books and articles have been written about Muhammad Ali. One of the best is "The Muhammad AIi Reader" edited by Gerald Early.

He writes "Every so often, a sports figure takes America by storm, grabbing headlines and rising to super stardom in a flash of time.

But rarely does a sports figure grip the attention of the entire world-and maintain it throughout four decades.

Muhammad Ali is such a man, arguably the finest athlete of the twentieth century and incontestably one of the most famous Americans of his time. He is known the world over not only for his boxing prowess but for his rebellious courage and resilience against controversary. He has been an underdog and champion, villain and prince, playboy and staunch Muslim, exalted American and punished conscientious objector. He was the ultimate athlete­Heavyweight Champion of the World-and today confronts the physical debilitations of Parkinson's disease.

I've met Ali several times in various parts of the world. Our conversations in these meetings were never about boxing but about poetry:

At the time I was on the Board of Poetry Magazine and I sent several of his poems to Poetry Magazine, which pleased him very much, but unfortunately Henry Rago, the editor of poetry at the time found the poems very interesting but not meet the standard of the magazine. But he did ask for Ali's autograph.

One of his favorite poems follows below: It again shows what a thoughtful person Ali is.

Little Sparrow
Brown and White
Full of spirit
Full of flight
What divine design
Shapes your destiny?
Do you wonder about me
As I wonder about you?
Does God really know when you fall?
Is, there good and evil
And an afterlife?
Shall we meet again?
Little Sparrow
Brown and White
Full of spirit
Full of flight
Gentle feisty flutterer
Tell me your dreams

Finally, Ali told me he had never been to Greece and he wanted to go. I told him he would be greatly welcomed there and I would help plan his trip.

(Posting date 4 July 2007)

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