Muhammad Ali, who has died aged 74, was acclaimed by many as the greatest world heavyweight boxing champion the world has ever seen. He was certainly the most charismatic boxer. His courage inside and outside the ring and his verbal taunting of opponents were legendary, as were his commitment to justice and his efforts for the sick and underprivileged. Three times world champion, Ali harnessed his fame in the ring to causes outside it. He was a convert to Islam and the personification of Black Pride. He anticipated the anti-Vietnam war movement of the 1960s by refusing to join the armed forces. He made goodwill missions to Afghanistan and North Korea, delivered medical supplies to an embargoed Cuba, and travelled to Iraq to secure the release of 15 US hostages shortly before the first Gulf war. Repellent though he found many aspects of US foreign policy – and repellent as the establishment found him when in 1967 it banned him from the ring for three years for refusing the draft – the nation embraced Ali as time passed, realising his unique ambassadorial value. In 2005, he received his country’s highest civilian honour, the presidential medal of freedom, from George W… Read full this story
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