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With Big Wins, Hurd and Charlo Convey That Blonds Really Do Have More Fun

Bernard Fernandez

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. – It has been a tough season for Odell Beckham Jr., the New York Giants’ superstar wide receiver who has popularized both the seemingly impossible one-handed catch and a hairstyle, bleached-blond on top of the wearer’s naturally dark roots, that more and more African-American athletes have adopted as a mark of distinction and possibly as a tribute to its originator. But while Beckham is now out for the season with a fractured ankle, and his struggling team was 0-5 after a 27-22 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Chargers on Oct. 8 in which a grimacing Beckham had to be carted off the field, two of the victorious boxers in Saturday night’s Showtime-televised tripleheader here at the Barclays Center proved that OBJ’s ‘do’ is not through being a thing worthy of imitation.

While most of the public and media attention had been concentrated on the middle act of the three TV fights, which pitted WBC super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo against the much-hyped Erickson Lubin, and the finale and ostensible main event, in which WBA/IBO super welterweight titlist Erislandy Lara took on 2012 U.S. Olympian Terrell Gausha, the opening segment, in which IBF junior middleweight ruler Jarrett Hurd would defend his belt against former WBA 154-pound champ Austin Trout, drew comparatively scant attention.

That proved to be a major error in judgment, as the 7,643 in-house spectators and the Showtime viewing audience would happily discover. Where Beckham, when healthy, is adept at catching bombs, his barbershop lookalike, Hurd (pictured in the blue trunks), is more likely to deliver them. After a slow start in which Trout, the clever, 32-year-old southpaw from Las Cruses, N.M., held the upper hand in the first three rounds despite coming off a 17-month layoff that did not noticeably coat him in a layer of ring rust, one thing was becoming evident: the challenger lacked the firepower to continue to stave off the stalking Hurd’s relentless pursuit and intent to deliver far more damaging punches.

Hurd’s power eventually began to turn the tide, and the big bopper from Accokeek, Md., which is considered to be a part of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, foreshadowed the eventual ending by connecting with jolting right hands in the fifth round, twice causing Trout to take little bunny hops. Another big right in the sixth again almost caused Trout to go down, at which point the outcome became less a matter of “if” but “when.”

A small window opportunity opened for the game but increasingly desperate Trout in the seventh when he opened a cut above Hurd’s left eye, which Hurd claimed was the result of a head butt. But the taste of his own blood might have done more to ramp up Hurd’s pressure than to tamp it down, and he rocked Trout, who was never floored, with more ripping rights in the eighth and ninth rounds, which had the effect of swelling Trout’s right eye nearly shut.

In a possible nod to diversification, Hurd, 27, momentarily went southpaw in Round 10 and landed an overhand left that had once more turned Trout’s legs to jelly, but he managed to make it to the bell. The reprieve was only momentary; referee Eddie Claudio called the ring doctor over to examine Trout’s worsening eye and the determination was that it was best that the challenger, who several rounds earlier had decided that he would be better served by trying to build on his early momentum by knocking Hurd out, thus taking the judges out of the equation, not be allowed to come out for the 11th round.

It’s hard to find fault with Trout’s rationale for throwing caution to the wind. After 10 completed rounds, he trailed on all three scorecards, by 96-94 (twice) and 97-93, and the shift in momentum toward Hurd showed him landing 265 of 753 total punches (35 percent), according to CompuBox, compared to 208 of 673 (31 percent) for Trout. The disparity seems even more telling in light of Hurd’s superior strength.

“I’m always the one that comes on stronger at the end of the fight,” said Hurd (21-0, 15 KOs), who was making the first defense his title. “We knew we were going to wear Austin Trout down in the later rounds and eventually stop him.”

Trout (30-4, 17 KOs), who was taken to a nearby hospital for observation, was not available for comment, but in losing inside the distance for the first time he had enough valorous moments against an equally determined champion to stamp their fight as an instant classic, and Fight of the Year candidate.

“Wow,” said promoter Lou DiBella. “That was sensational.”

Hurd-Trout would have been a tough act to follow under most circumstances, but Charlo-Erickson, the presumed “fight fans fight,” was a jolt to most observers’ sensibilities, despite its brevity. Much of the attention beforehand had been focused on Lubin, who had just turned 22 on Oct. 1 and, in Charlo’s estimation, hadn’t established enough bona fides to even be granted a shot at the title, despite being the WBC’s mandatory contender.

“I’m fighting a prospect,” the blond-tressed Charlo had said, almost contemptuously, in the lead-up to the fight. “He’s not even a contender. Like I said, I don’t know how he even got this fight. But I have to (fight him) so I can fight the No. 1 guys. That’s what mandatories are all about.”

Lubin presumably had further irritated Charlo by musing about all the good things that would come his way after he wrested the title from the 27-year-old champion. He spoke about “changing the lives” of his parents, Erick and Marjorie, and especially that of his three-month-old son with the sort of financial benefits attendant to reigning champions with burgeoning fan bases.

As if all that weren’t enough, perhaps the 27-year-old Jermell still harbors a grudge toward all the skeptics who have depicted him a lesser talent than his identical twin, Jermall (26-0, 20 KOs), a former IBF junior middleweight champion who vacated that title to move up to middleweight. Perhaps because Jermall was regularly depicted as the harder puncher and thus more entertaining of the twins, Jermell switched trainers, from Ronnie Shields to Derrick James, who was tasked with the responsibility of converting his new pupil to someone as capable of whacking out opponents as Jermall, who continues to be trained by Shields.

The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and the new-look Jermell has significantly raised his profile as a dangerous dude.  He came into the bout having won his three most recent bouts inside the distance, including an eighth-round knockout of John Jackson for the vacant WBC title and a sixth-round kayo of Charles Hatley in his first defense. But Lubin supposedly posed a much sterner test, even if there were some reservations that he was stepping too far up in class and too soon.

Make it four straight now as he delivered a ripping right hand to Lubin’s jaw in the very first round that sent the Orlando, Fla., southpaw crashing to the canvas, where he rolled over onto his side and flopped around like a caught fish. Referee Harvey Dock did the right thing and waved things off after an elapsed time of just 2 minutes, 41 seconds.

“They were giving (Lubin) a lot of attention,” Charlo said of Lubin’s now-diminished status as one of boxing’s flavors of the month. “I was quiet the whole time. They said he was going to take my title. I had to defend it. They (Lubin and his support crew) didn’t know what I was bringing into this and I think he was worried about the wrong things.”

Just as Hurd-Trout will get consideration for Fight of the Year, Charlo’s quickie demolition of a hot property like Lubin now enters the discussion for Knockout of the Year.

Popularity in boxing being tied as it is to a fighter’s action quotient, it was almost a given that Houston-based Cuban defector Erislandy Lara, who closed the night by making his sixth title defense against unheralded 2012 U.S. Olympian Terrell Gausha, would provide the fewest thrills and chills. But then, technical proficiency is and always has been the Lara’s stock in trade. He wins not so much by looking good himself, but by making opponents look bad, and he wasn’t about to deviate from his tried-and-true fight plan against Gausha, even though the 34-year-old southpaw dropped the would-be usurper from Cleveland, Ohio, with a straight left for a flash knockdown in the fourth round. Gausha, 29, survived the mini-scare, but he proceeded to be outboxed the rest of the way in a snoozer that seemed even less appealing in light of the fact the two preceding 154-pound championship fights had produced spectacular moments of high drama.

“He came to fight,” Lara (25-2-2, 14 KOs) said of Gausha (20-1, 9 KOs), who never registered double-digit scoring punches in any of the 12 rounds. “I take the rhythm of the boxing match and that’s when I take over. (Gausha was) fighting the best in the division … he knew who he was fighting today.”

All that remains now is how the future plays out for the winners, all of whom professed an interest in unification matchups.

“I’m ready to unify – 2018 is the year for unifications. It don’t matter who it is. I’m ready to take on anyone,” said Hurd. “Team Swift (“Swift” is Hurd’s nickname, although mobility does not appear to be his foremost asset) don’t run from anyone.”

It was yada, yada, yada with both Charlo and Lara, the former an emerging quick-strike artist and the latter and unhurried tactician.

“We’re going to unify,” Charlo said. “The other champions want to fight me and I’ll take any of them. Give me another title. I want Hurd. Hurd just won. Give me Hurd.”

Lara, on the other hand, has visions of mixing it up with former stablemate Charlo, saying, “I don’t shy away from anyone that wants to fight me. I’ll box whoever. Just line them up. I’m not afraid. I have proven that I’m a true champion. I’ll fight Charlo if I have to. We are friends, but business is business.”

Based on Saturday night’s (and into early Sunday morning in the Eastern Time Zone) results, perhaps the most appealing of the possible pairings would be Hurd vs. Charlo. For one thing, they have the more fan-friendly styles. For another, somebody needs to claim the mythical but seemingly coveted crown as king of the OBJ hairstyles. Even in boxing, it matters to care about the hair.

Photo credit: Ed Diller / DiBella Entertainment

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Tank Davis and the Charlo Twins Featured on the Loaded Showtime/PBC Schedule

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Tank Davis and the Charlo Twins Featured on the Loaded Showtime/PBC Schedule

PRESS RELEASE — SHOWTIME Sports and Premier Boxing Champions today unveiled a loaded five-month boxing schedule of nine high-stakes world championship events beginning Saturday, May 15, live on SHOWTIME. The schedule delivers two events per month through August. Thirteen matchups have been announced thus far with no less than seven world title fights, and 12 fighters defending undefeated records. The lineup features many of boxing’s best young fighters taking on career-defining challenges in their primes. All fights on the schedule will take place before a live audience, keeping with applicable local COVID-19 safety protocols.

The sizzling summer run features the dynamic Charlo twins as undefeated electrifying champion Jermall Charlo defends his WBC middleweight world title against Juan Macias Montiel in a special Juneteenth homecoming in Houston on Saturday, June 19, live on SHOWTIME.

The following Saturday, June 26, unbeaten Mayweather Promotions star Gervonta “Tank” Davis moves up two weight classes for a chance to become a three-division world champion when he takes on fellow undefeated champion Mario Barrios for his super lightweight world title in what will be Davis’ second pay-per-view showdown.

The next month, WBC, WBA and IBF 154-pound charismatic world champion Jermell Charlo looks to make boxing history when he takes on WBO junior middleweight world champion Brian Castaño in a mega-fight to crown the first four-belt 154-pound world champion.

The SHOWTIME boxing schedule features eight editions of SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING and one premier SHOWTIME PPV event, all presented by Premier Boxing Champions:

  • MAY 15 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
    • Luis Nery vs. Brandon Figueroa, WBC Super Bantamweight World Title Fight
    • Danny Roman vs. Ricardo Espinoza Franco, Super Bantamweight Fight
    • Xavier Martinez vs. Abraham Montoya, WBA Super Featherweight Fight
    • MAY 29 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
      • Nordine Oubaali vs. Nonito Donaire, WBC Bantamweight World Title Fight
      • Subriel Matias vs. Batyrzhan Jukembayev, IBF Super Lightweight Title Eliminator
  • JUNE 19 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING 
    • Jermall Charlo vs. Juan Macias Montiel, WBC Middleweight World Title Fight
  • JUNE 26 – SHOWTIME PPV
    • Gervonta Davis vs. Mario Barrios, WBA Super Lightweight World Title Fight
    • Erickson Lubin vs. Jeison Rosario, WBC Junior Middleweight Title Eliminator
    • JULY 3 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
    • Chris Colbert vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa, WBA Super Featherweight Interim Title Fight
  • JULY 17 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING 
    • Jermell Charlo vs. Brian Castaño, Undisputed IBF, WBA, WBC & WBO Junior Middleweight World Title Unification Fight
  • AUGUST 14 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING

                  Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. John Riel Casimero, WBO Bantamweight World Title Fight

         AUGUST 28 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING

    • David Benavidez vs. Jose Uzcategui, WBC Super Middleweight Title Eliminator
  • SEPTEMBER 11 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
  • Stephen Fulton, Jr. vs. winner of Nery-Figueroa, Super Bantamweight World Title Unification Fight

“High-impact, meaningful fights amongst many of the biggest names and brightest stars in combat sports. That is what SHOWTIME promises and that is what we are delivering,” said Stephen Espinoza, President, SHOWTIME Sports. “With an opportunity to crown an undisputed world champion at 154 pounds, a highly anticipated super bantamweight title unification, a stacked pay-per-view showdown and more than a dozen fights between 118-168 pounds, SHOWTIME is presenting boxing’s best young fighters, all daring to be great by putting their world titles and undefeated records on the line.

Editor’s Note: This press release has been edited for brevity.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Regis Prograis, Paul vs. Askren, and Kahlil Poe

Arne K. Lang

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Regis Prograis returns to this ring this Saturday, April 17, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. In the opposite corner will be Ivan Redkach, an LA-based Ukrainian who brings a 23-5-1 (18) record.

There was a time when there was a raging debate as to whether Prograis belonged on the pound-for-pound list. That talk quieted when Prograis lost to Josh Taylor in a battle of unbeatens in London. But the bout was a humdinger and Prograis, a slight favorite, didn’t lose by much. One of the judges ruled the fight a draw as did many watching at ringside and at home.

Prograis returned to the ring of October of last year, stopping the previously undefeated Juan Heraldez in the third round. That boosted his record to 25-1 (21 KOs).

Prograis vs. Redkach isn’t a particularly compelling match-up, but Prograis is one of the most exciting fighters in the sport and one would have thought that the match would have attracted more buzz. But no, all the talk about Saturday’s card has been about the main event between YouTube star Jake Paul and Ben Askren. It’s all yours, folks, have at it: Paul vs. Askren, Prograis vs. Redkach, other supporting bouts, musical entertainment, and a vast array of commentators including Snoop Dogg, Mario Lopez, and supermodel Taylor Hill for $49.99 on FITE TV.

ESPN writer Cameron Wolfe predicts that Saturday’s show will outsell every other PPV in 2021 outside of Tyson Fury vs. Anthony Joshua and Mike Tyson exhibitions.

“There is little doubt that boxing purists hate it,” notes Wolfe.

Number me among the purists. Paul vs. Askren is an insult to all the boxers who toil for years in the gym to hone their craft and give an honest effort each time they fight. Award-winning Washington Times columnist Thom Loverro notes that Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez earned $600,000 between them for their recent 12-round barnburner, an instant classic. Jake Paul and Ben Askren will earn millions for their encounter, a cruiserweight bout slated for eight rounds.

Having said this, I confess that I find the bout intriguing. As much as I hate to admit it, Jake Paul does possess a modicum of boxing skill and in Ben Askren he is facing a fellow who hates to lose at anything, be it frisbee golf, at which he’s very proficient, or a combat sport. The Hartland, Wisconsin native was 17-2 in MMA and 153-8 as a wrestler at the University of Missouri including an 87-0 mark in his last two seasons. A two-time NCAA champion and a 2008 Olympian, Askren is flat out one of the greatest college wrestlers of all time.

UFC honcho Dana White purportedly put down a $100,000 bet on Askren. (White has been known to win or lose that much at a blackjack table.)

The drawbacks to Askren from a handicapping standpoint are that he left MMA after undergoing a major hip surgery, he’s 36 years old, 12 years older than Jake Paul, and as an MMA fighter he wasn’t much of a striker. Also, there’s a possibility that he will lose his cool in the heat of battle and revert to a wrestling move, getting himself disqualified.

In one of the supporting bouts on the show, Frank Mir, a former two-time UFC heavyweight champion, opposes Philadelphia’s Steve Cunningham. A former two-time cruiserweight world title-holder, Cunningham gave Tyson Fury a heap of trouble before getting knocked out in the seventh round at Madison Square Garden in 2013.

Frank Mir turns 42 next month. Cunningham is 44 and has been out of the ring for 44 months. We won’t dignify this bout, slated for eight rounds, by talking more about it.

Khalil Coe

The latest boxer to cast his lot with Eddie Hearn is New Jersey light heavyweight Khalil Coe who officially joined Hearn’s Matchroom firm yesterday, April 12.

khalil

khalil Poe

Coe scored one of the biggest upsets in U.S. amateur boxing history when he starched Cuba’s Julio Cesar La Cruz in the opening round on June 23, 2018 at a tournament in Halle, Germany. A veteran of nearly 200 fights, La Cruz was a four-time world amateur champion and 2016 Olympic gold medalist. Coe was competing in his first overseas tournament.

Coe, who turns 25 in August, has a style that is well-suited to the pro ranks. But does he have the discipline to maximize his potential? He did not participate in the 2019 Olympic Trails (the 2020 edition was postponed by the pandemic) and according to BoxRec hasn’t fought since February of 2019 when he advanced to the finals of a tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria, only to lose on a walkover.

Coe hails from Jersey City. The second most-populous city in the Garden State, Jersey City sits across the Hudson River from Manhattan.

Crime has long plagued the residents of Jersey City and Coe is no stranger to the court system. He was arrested in April of 2017 on a gun possession charge and arrested again in March of 2019 in Newark. Details are murky.

The buffer between Khalil Coe and promoter Hearn is Split-T Management whose co-founder David McWater was named the 2020 Manager of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America. Split-T’s deep roster includes Teofimo Lopez, Charles Conwell and others including a bevy of intriguing young prospects. Coe is in good hands.

According to yesterday’s press release, Coe will make his pro debut on May 29 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas underneath Devin Haney vs. Jorge Linares. He is expected to drop down a weight class as his career progresses and chase his first title at 168 pounds.

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Ramsey Clark and Muhammad Ali

Thomas Hauser

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Ramsey Clark, who championed human rights throughout his life and served as Attorney General of the United States during the last 26 months of Lyndon Johnson’s administration died on April 9 at age 93. In one of history’s ironies, Clark (probably the most liberal attorney general in the history of the United States) was responsible for approving the 1967 criminal prosecution of Muhammad Ali for refusing induction into the United States Army.

Clark was born in Dallas in 1927. He served in the Marines during World War II, was an undergraduate at the University of Texas, and earned his law degree at the University of Chicago. As Attorney General, he filed lawsuits to combat discrimination in employment and housing and in support of school desegregation and voting rights. After leaving office, he moved considerably further to the left, making some former allies uncomfortable. In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly honored him with its Prize in the Field of Human Rights, an award given out at five-year intervals. Previous recipients included Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr, and Nelson Mandela.

“A right is not what someone gives you,” Clark once said. “It’s what no one can take from you.”

I met Clark in 1989 when I interviewed him while researching Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times. Several years later, I interviewed him again when Frank Macchiarola and I co-authored a book entitled Confronting America’s Moral Crisis.

Speaking of Ali and Vietnam, Clark told me, “I opposed the war in Vietnam as early as I became aware of it which was sometime in the mid-1960s. I can remember the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and thinking that Wayne Morse and Earnest Gruening [the two senators who voted against the resolution] were heroes. And I remember William Fulbright’s limited opposition to the war and thinking it was good but not enough. Then, in September 1966, I was named acting attorney general and the appointment became final in February 1967.”

“I can’t say that I had a studied judgment on whether or not the war was legal,” Clark continued. “But I had grave doubts about it. If we’re going to be a constitutional government, before we get a half million men in a foreign country shooting and killing, we ought to know whether it’s constitutional and permissible to do it. Maybe as attorney general, I should have been out there saying, ‘This war is against the law.’ But I didn’t, and part of the reason was I had come into the government in 1961 in the midst of the civil rights struggle. By 1967, it might have looked like things were going well, but the truth is we were very badly embattled. There was quite a bit of conflict between those who wanted to keep expanding in the area of civil rights and those who did not, and we were barely able to hold on. Also, I was opposing the death penalty. We had stopped federal executions in 1963, and 1968 would be the first year in the history of the United States that we didn’t have a single execution despite the fact that that was the year Martin Luther King and Bob Kennedy were assassinated. Those struggles were very real and very important to me. There were a lot of people who wanted me to abandon them by resigning over the war in Vietnam, which was clearly the overriding moral issue in our society at the time. But in terms of all the things I believed in and all the causes in which I was involved, that would have let a lot of people down.”

Regarding Ali, Clark recalled, “Muhammad’s conflict with the draft board was a great concern of mine, although I’d have to say, not as great as the concern I had for the poor young black kids from the ghettos or the rural poor from the South who never had a chance to question whether or not to go to Vietnam and who got brutalized and killed. My own personal view was that a person should have a right to conscientious objector status without professing a specific religious faith, and that one should be able to base it upon what you might call philosophical rather than religious grounds. But that of course was not the law then, nor is it now. I don’t recall and doubt very much that I discussed the case with President Johnson. I had a strict policy not to discuss criminal cases with the president. I felt it would have been dangerous in appearance and potentially dangerous in fact to insert politics into a criminal matter, and the White House is a political office. Obviously, Muhammad’s indictment involved some hard choices. But the good thing about it was, there was power on both sides to shape and test the issues. I wasn’t particularly happy about it, but life is full of turbulence and conflict, and I never try to avoid either. In fact, I guess I seek them out because that’s where the chance to make a difference is.”

Ramsey Clark

Ramsey Clark

On June 20, 1967, Ali was convicted of unlawfully refusing induction into the United States Armed Forces. Four years later – on June 28, 1971 – the United States Supreme Court unanimously overturned his conviction.

“The government didn’t need Ali to fight the war,” Clark said afterward. “But they would have loved to put him in the service, get his picture in there, maybe give him a couple of stripes on his sleeve and take him all over the world. Think of the power that would have had in Africa, Asia, and South America. Here’s this proud American serviceman, fighting symbolically for his country. They would have loved to do that.”

Thereafter, Clark and Ali worked together on several projects. On one occasion, Ramsey and his wife joined Muhammad and Lonnie Ali as guests for dinner in my home. The mutual admiration between the two men was obvious.

“To me, Muhammad Ali is a totally spiritual person,” Clark said later. “It doesn’t have to do with the Christian faith in which he was raised, and it doesn’t have to do with the Islamic faith to which he converted. It has to do with his love for life, his faith in the human spirit, and his belief in the equality of all people. I see Ali as a human being whose sense of purpose in life is to help others. He must lay awake at night, wondering what he can do to help people, because wherever people are in need, his priorities are there. He sees children who are right next to him, but children who are starving in Africa and threatened by bombing in Iraq are also within the scope of his imagination. He wants to help everyone and he travels at great personal burden and financial expense to be wherever he’s needed. I say, God bless him. He makes an enormous difference.”

And there were other thoughts that Clark shared with me over time:

*         “I don’t like boxing. I oppose boxing because I think it’s violent and damaging to the young men who participate in it. It symbolizes our glorification of violence and the rule of violence over compassion and the rule of law. I also don’t believe in fame. I think fame, like power, is a profound misunderstanding and distortion of what is good and desirable. One of the most damaging beliefs people have is that only those who are famous or hold power can change things or make a difference. True social change has to come from the people. Each of us has to want to be involved and has to believe that we as individuals can make a difference and that our ability to make a difference doesn’t depend upon our being elected to the House of Representatives or being the preacher of the biggest church in town or president of a corporation or heavyweight champion of the world. Those roles tend to be selfish and self-fulfilling and debilitating in terms of the pureness of one’s commitment. You make so many compromises in pursuing those careers that it’s an illusion to think that’s how you make the changes you care about, if you care about justice and social change.”

*         “Muhammad Ali made an enormous difference. There was a quality of pure goodwill about him. There always has been, and I believe, always will be. Here was a young black man from American poverty. He could very easily have been embittered, hateful, racist. But through all his trials and tribulations, he never manifested any of those qualities. And when he spoke, he said loving things. In his mind, wishes came true, and that’s the way a good portion of his life has been. He meant different things to different strata of American society. But to the poor, he meant you can do what you will; anything is possible.”

*         “Muhammad Ali gave people hope. He inspired and continues to inspire millions of people. And to everyone, he meant that you can be gentle and strong, that there’s not a contradiction there; because for all his obvious physical strength, he always evoked gentleness and love. With Muhammad Ali, you saw grace; you saw joy. He meant charity in the truest sense of the word. He made people proud to be who they were.”

*         “It’s not an anomaly; it shows the way we are, really, that he came to the opportunity to do all that he did through fighting. But he’s always had a vision that goes beyond the violence of boxing. His character causes him to want to help others. And character is destiny. That’s the character we need. He hasn’t been able to accomplish all that he wanted. Much of what he set out to do never materialized. But he’s a person of unique good will and good works. He touched so many lives and brought out the better angels in millions of people.”

*         “You know, the joy of life is that you have to persevere and do what you can to make this a better world. We’re going to have a billion more people on earth before the end of this century. The great majority of them will have dark skin and live in terrible poverty. Hundreds of millions of them will have shortened lives and suffer from hunger, malnutrition, ignorance, and disease. But if the rest of us can come through in the manner of Muhammad Ali, we can solve the problems that lie ahead. The most important thing he communicates is his love and desire to do good. That was what he taught us all. And if you can really communicate that, that there are people who love; well, then maybe you’ll change the world.”

And there was a final grace note.

“I see him from time to time,” Clark said of Ali. “And the last time I saw him, I told him – and I meant it – I said to him, ‘You’ll always be my champion.’”

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Staredown: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, Hauser was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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