Saturday, June 04, 2016

"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."


"The boxer, who died Friday, was the most fantastical American figure
of his era, a self-invented character of such physical wit,
political defiance, global fame, and sheer originality ."

- David Remnick, The New Yorker

Muhammad Ali in Chicago, in 1966.
Muhammad Ali in Chicago, in 1966.

A true gentleman

Muhammad Ali defied the draft
-- and polarized the nation --
49 years ago

It was 49 years ago Thursday when an Army officer in Houston summoned Muhammad Ali three times to step forward for induction into military service during the Vietnam War, and the heavyweight world champion refused each request.
“Looking back on this requires you to immerse yourself back in the time. At the time he made the decision, nobody had gone against a U.S. war – 99% of the public were for the war,” said veteran fight promoter Bob Arum, who helped broker a deal one year earlier that allowed Ali to skirt a ban in Chicago and fight George Chuvalo in Toronto.
Originally, in 1964, Ali didn’t qualify for draft eligibility, but when standards were lowered by 1966, he did. Ali famously told reporters that year, “I ain’t got nothing against them Viet Cong,” and he was influenced by his mentor, Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, who had conscientiously objected to World War II.
“Ali thought if it was good enough for Elijah, it was good enough for him,” said Jerry Izenberg, the longtime sports reporter for the Newark Star-Ledger who covered Ali’s entire career. “It was very simple: Go to jail or betray what he believed in. Very simple at the time … but it became very complex.”
Ali’s refusal to step forward in Houston saw him stripped of his boxing license and World Boxing Assn. title, and it stopped him from traveling abroad for the multiple fights he was offered.

Former Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown presides
over a meeting of top African American athletes on June 4, 1967, to show
support for boxer Muhammad Ali\'s refusal to fight in Vietnam.

Both the State Department and FBI labeled him a flight risk after an all-white Texas jury convicted him of felony refusal to be drafted in June 1967.
As appeals were made to keep him out of jail, and the fighter rejected overtures for a compromise to enlist, the stripped champion at his peak was kept out of the ring from March 22, 1967, until Oct. 26, 1970.
It didn’t matter that an appointed examiner, Lawrence Grauman, had previously met with Ali privately and concluded that his objection was sincere. That was strangely overruled by an FBI probe.
And it didn’t matter that attorney Arthur Krim, the head of United Artists and the Democratic Party treasurer, met with President Lyndon Johnson to secure a proposed military service arrangement preferential to Ali.
“Ali wouldn’t even have to put his uniform on,” said Arum, who worked in Krim’s firm. “He’d just give a couple [boxing] exhibitions at a couple military bases and would be able to continue fighting as a professional. Ali, after a famous meeting with a lot of black athletes, including Jim Brown, turned it down. He wasn’t afraid of combat. There was no chance he would be in combat. His decision was completely principled. He gave up a lot by doing it.”
Izenberg said he learned the depth of Ali’s resolve while visiting the fighter at a gym in Toronto days before the Chuvalo fight in March 1966.

Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali surrounds himself with kids and talks
to the media after being informed his draft board reclassified him as able to serve.

“Ali’s on his stomach on top of a training table when I walk in,” Izenberg said, “and I told him, ‘I’m going to tell you the truth, this is what I’m hearing, and you may not like it, but a lot of young men who are against the war are coming to Canada and getting sanctuary. A lot of them don’t want to fight, so I’m interested in if you’re going to come home?’
“He jumped off that table and got in my face and said, ‘You, of all people, should know! How can you say that? America is my birthplace, and nobody is going to chase me out of my birthplace! I’ll go to jail. I’ll go back. I’m going home. I don’t make the laws or the rules, but if the law or rules are that I have to go to jail, then I’m going to go to jail.’ That’s the first time I really believed.”

Izenberg returned home and began writing columns supportive of Ali’s position, the first headlined, “With Liberty and Justice For All.”
Source: Los Angeles Times, Lance Pugmire, April 28, 2016

In 1974, Photographer Angelo Simon spent two days with Ali as he
trained in rural Pennsylvania for his Rumble in the Jungle fight against
George Foreman. (More here)


joseph said...

Je me souviens des J O de Rome en 1960 , je crois qu'il fut un des premiers boxeurs olympiens à infliger des KO en si peu de rounds....mais il remis ça pour sonner - j d m- Liston la deuxième fois

another country said...

L'article de Remnik dans le New Yorker résume bien le personnage. Un monument.

JiEL said...

Un monument et quelle époque aux USA où les modèles de noirs qui réussissent et se «battent» pour leurs droits deviennent des idoles et même des martyres.(Assassinat de Martin Luther King Jr.)

D'ailleurs, je vous suggère le film «All The Way» qui relate la vie de Lindon B. Johnson suite à l'assassinat de J.F.Kennedy.

J'en ai appris beaucoup sur le rôle de ce président mis à la tête des USA dans des circonstance douloureuse mais, surtout, de ses tractations avec Martin Luther King pour «enfoncer» le projet de loi sur les droits civiques dans la gorge des sudistes ségrégationnistes

Le tout se passe entre 1963 et 1968 un moment charnière aux USA afin qu'ils passent à une ère de liberté et d'égalité.
Faut se demander si ils y ont vraiment accédé depuis de années de troubles sociaux?

another country said...

Merci de ce panorama très complet,jiel

another country said...

Merci de ce panorama très complet,jiel