June 13, 2016 |
Cassius Clay was the first sports antihero, in flesh and blood, to walk through the imagination of Philadelphia Catholic schoolboys my age. For eighth graders at St. Margaret School in Narberth, he represented everything we were taught to despise. Clay was living proof of what moms and nuns always warned us against. In those days, praise from authority figures was ladled out by the thimbleful for athletic or scholastic achievements due to the repeatedly expressed fear that "you'll get a big head.
June 7, 2016
My admiration for Muhammad Ali wasn't at first sight. You have to understand that when Cassius Clay, which was his name at the time, knocked out Sonny Liston on Feb. 25, 1964, in my 10-year-old mind he was defeating a man admired by little black boys in Alabama like me for his ferociousness in doing the inconceivable: routinely knocking out white men with no fear of being trotted off to jail. It didn't matter that Clay was black too. He was a loud mouth and too good-looking to believe he would hold the heavyweight crown for very long.
July 13, 2012
WHEN THEY CHOSE Muhammad Ali to receive the 2012 Liberty Medal, who was the runner-up, Mel Gibson? Don't howl. Have you forgotten that Gibson starred in "The Patriot," playing a farmer named Benjamin Martin who wound up leading the Colonial Militia in the American Revolution which was all about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Holy Schwarzenegger, it happens. Decades go by, the folks at the National Constitution Center either forgot, or never heard Ali turn the weeks leading up to his first fight against Joe Frazier into a nasty monologue that reeked of racism.
April 12, 2010
MUHAMMAD ALI was not the greatest of all time! Even if he said he was. Said it often. Shouted it loud enough to rattle windows in the suburbs, where white folks lived. Ali had huge talent and an ego to match. Ali could be kind and he could be cruel. Charm-the-fuzz-off-a-peach kind, slash-the-jugular cruel. Ali dared to be different and he warned us all, "I don't have to be what you want me to be. " "Facing Ali" might not be the best boxing documentary ever made, but if it isn't, it's right there in the top three - powerful, poignant, an earthy tribute to the glory that was Ali and heavyweight boxing in the '70s.
January 26, 2010
REMATCH IN A dinky hockey rink in Lewiston, Maine. Muhammad Ali knocks out Sonny Liston in the first round. Knocks him out with a short, swift punch that is so short, so swift, so lethal that the cynics looked at the slo-mo replay over and over and over, the way they scanned the Zapruder film frame-by-frame. And even then they weren't sure of what they hadn't seen. Ali told them the knockout right hand was an "anchor punch" and that he'd learned it from old-time movie comic Stepin Fetchit, who had learned it from the legendary heavyweight, Jack Johnson.
November 12, 2006 |
Light Heavyweight Ali In 2004, the boutique book publisher Taschen put out GOAT: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali, an 800-page picture book that weighed 75 pounds and had a list price of $12,500. Now, for the rest of us, Taschen has teamed with ESPN Books to produce Ali Rap, a pudgy, 600-page, $24.95 book celebrating the "greatest of all time. " (That's what GOAT stood for.) The premise is that "before there was rap . . . there was Ali Rap, a topsy-turvy, jivey jargon that only Ali could create.
March 13, 2006 |
IT WAS NEARLY 35 years ago, and the visiting bishop stood at the front of the church and looked out among the elementary school students of Immaculate Heart of Mary. He had just read a story from the New Testament about a miracle Jesus had performed, and he wanted to engage the students during his homily. "Who was the most powerful man who ever lived?" he asked us. A hand shot up among the first-graders. The bishop pointed to the boy, and I saw that it was my little brother Pat. "Tell us young man," the bishop said.
June 3, 2002 |
John W. Nilon Sr., 82, of Wallingford, cofounder of a Delaware County concession company and a business adviser to former heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston, died of emphysema Wednesday at his home. In 1945, Mr. Nilon and his brothers Robert and James began selling lunch to workers at Sun Shipyard in Chester. They made the sandwiches and soup in the basement of their family home in Ridley Park. The brothers eventually set up lunch trailers at the shipyard and at the Sun Oil Co. refinery.
October 9, 1999 |
No, Laila Ali was saying, her posturing over the fallen April Fowler, very reminiscent of the way her father, Muhammad Ali, had defiantly stood over Sonny Liston in their May 25, 1961, rematch in Lewiston, Maine, was not orchestrated or rehearsed. "It came naturally," insisted the youngest daughter of the legendary, three-time former heavyweight champion, whose professional debut here last night at the Turning Stone Resort Casino was more notable for her family background than for whatever skills she demonstrated in the ridiculously easy one-round knockout.
April 2, 1998 |
Floyd Patterson resigned yesterday as New York's athletic commissioner amid reports he was suffering from memory loss so severe he couldn't remember his secretary's name or even the fighter he beat for his first heavyweight title. "After long and careful consideration, my family and I have decided that for personal reasons, I will resign," Patterson wrote in a brief letter to Gov. George Pataki, who appointed him to the post in 1995. The New York Post reported yesterday that a 3 1/2-hour videotape of a deposition Patterson gave two weeks ago shows he could not recall important events in his 64-fight professional career or the names of his closest aides.