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The Death of Olli Maki Unleashed a Flood of Bittersweet Memories

Arne K. Lang

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Olli Maki, a former European junior welterweight champion, died earlier this month at a nursing home in a Helsinki suburb at age 82. News of his passing on April 6 unleashed a flood of bittersweet memories.

Maki wasn’t a great fighter. He finished his career with a record of 28-14-8. But he participated in an historic fight and he and his opponent Davey Moore became parcels of popular culture, transcending boxing, in Moore’s case posthumously.

Maki, a Finn, a baker by trade, was the house fighter in the first world title fight ever staged in Scandinavia. The date was August 17, 1962, and the venue was Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium.

Although Maki had a strong amateur background, he had only 11 pro fights under his belt. Moore, the reigning world featherweight champion, hailing from Springfield, Ohio, was 56-6-1 and making his fifth title defense.

Making matters even more daunting for Maki, he wasn’t a natural featherweight. He had to boil off considerable weight to make 126 pounds and the endeavor eroded much of his strength. This was of little concern to the promoter, however. A local man, his priority was in creating a grand event, a spectacle. He picked Davey Moore not only because Moore held the title but because his name resonated with many of the locals. Davey had participated in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, advancing to the third round.

As a spectacle, Maki vs. Moore turned out pretty well. The event attracted more than 25,000 (23,643 paid). As a fair competition, however, the contest failed miserably; Olli Maki had no business being in the same ring with Davey Moore. The Finn was blasted out in the second round, a left-right combination knocking him on the seat of his pants and a second one-two putting him down again and leaving him too woozy to continue.

If you’re thinking of moving to Finland, the country has many plusses. There’s very little crime, health care costs are low, life expectancy is high and Finland, home to Nokia, is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. But be advised that it gets cold there. The average high temperature in Helsinki in August is 66 degrees and this is the second warmest month of the year.

Although Maki vs. Moore was held in mid-August, there was a chill in the air. In fact, referee Barney Ross was shivering as he stood at the back of the ground level seats waiting for the ring to be cleared following the last preliminary bout. Yes, this was that Barney Ross, the former lightweight, welterweight, and junior welterweight world champion.

To ward off the chill, Ross started shadow boxing. This elicited a great roar from the crowd. “I didn’t know what they were cheering about and then I figured out it was me,” said Ross, reminiscing. “I still can’t get over it. It’s like giving an ovation to a baseball umpire.”

The Finns were in a festive mood but had nothing to cheer about from that point on.

– – – –

When the Moore-Maki fight was announced, boxing aficionados groaned. They were hoping that Moore would proceed straightaway to a match with a young Cuban fighter turning heads, Ultiminio “Sugar” Ramos. The clamor for a Moore-Ramos fight was most intense in Ramos’s adopted home of Mexico City where a powerful new organization was emerging to challenge the hegemony of the WBA, the World Boxing Council (the IBF and WBO hadn’t yet been born).

Moore vs. Ramos came to fruition on Thursday, May 21, 1963 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The bout was witnessed by an announced crowd of 28,800 and a national television audience. Both the WBA and WBC belts were at stake. While other entities such as the New York and Pennsylvania commissions had flouted the WBA and ordained their own “world champions,” this was the first true unification fight in the featherweight division.

Sugar Ramos, 21, was 38-1-3 with 29 knockouts. His only loss came by disqualification. But Moore, 29, was riding a 20-fight winning streak and was chalked the favorite.

The fight was a humdinger. Moore had Ramos down and almost out in the second and seventh stanzas, but the young Cuban emigrant had more fuel in his tank and came back to stop Moore in the 10th. The final punch knocked Moore into the ropes, causing the ropes to vibrate. As he fell, the nape of his neck struck the bottom strand of ropes. He was saved by the bell but his manager Willie Ketchum decided that Moore had had enough and called the fight off.

Forty minutes after the fight, after conversing with reporters, Moore collapsed and was rushed to White Memorial Hospital where doctors determined that the comatose fighter, the son of a minister, had swelling on his brain stem consistent with a whiplash injury. His wife of 11 years, Geraldine, the mother of his five children, was with him in Los Angeles but hadn’t attended the fight. She could never bear to watch her husband fight. At the hospital, she maintained a bedside vigil.

Sugar Ramos was distraught. Dan Smith, a stringer for the LA Times, shadowed Ramos as the fighter entered the hospital through a rear entrance to avoid TV crews and captured this poignant scene as Ramos grieved with Geraldine:

I am very sorry the young man whispered in a choked voice. Then Ramos bowed his head, unable to go on. He began to sob softly.

I want you to understand I’m not blaming you for anything, replied Mrs. Moore. It was God’s act.

I’m praying every night, said Ramos, and I’ll continue to pray every night. I want to help in any possible way for Davey to recover. With that, the saddened fighter began to weep again.

Davey Moore never regained consciousness. He died at 2:20 am on Sunday morning, March 25. (An unrelated Davey Moore won the WBA super welterweight title in 1982.)

– – –

Moore’s death inspired two protest songs, most notably “Who Killed Davey Moore?” by the folk singer Bob Dylan. The song, an indictment of boxing where no one accepts culpability for a ring death, is one of Dylan’s more obscure renderings but that did not keep Sports Illustrated senior editor Greg Kelly from putting “Who Killed Davey Moore?” at the top of his list of the best sports songs of all time in a story that ran in the July 4, 2011 issue of that publication. (#2 on Kelly’s list was “Surfin’ USA” by the Beach Boys, a weird juxtaposition.)

Ultiminio “Sugar” Ramos and Moore’s widow Geraldine would hook up once again and here the bitter saga of Davey Moore is leavened with sweetness. In 2013, 50 years after Moore’s fatal injury, Ramos, then 71 years old (he died in 2017), was inspired to go to Moore’s grave and pay his respects. It was on his bucket list.

He contacted Geraldine Moore who still resided in Springfield and learned that a statue of Moore would be unveiled in September. Ramos promised to be there at the unveiling.

It was a long and arduous trip from Mexico City, what with airplane transfers and the drive in from Indianapolis, 130 miles away. Along the way, Ramos picked up a friend, Luigi Meglioli, a man with a better command of English. Meglioli owned a ceramic tile company in Tijuana. When they arrived in Springfield at the meeting place, Ramos was holding a bouquet for Geraldine and Meglioli a pot of lilies to be laid at Davey Moore’s cemetery plot.

The great Dayton Daily News columnist Tom Archdeacon, the dean of sportswriters in southwestern Ohio, led the fund-raising campaign to have the statue sculpted and then have it bronzed. This took a while. Clark County, home to Springfield, sits in America’s Rust Belt and has seen better days.

Archdeacon was there to record the moment when Sugar Ramos and Geraldine Moore were reunited after all those many years and this too was a poignant moment. Ramos was apprehensive. Davey Moore’s children were all grown now. How would they react to the man whose fists had killed their father? But when the little man in the straw fedora emerged from his vehicle, his countenance betraying his qualms, Geraldine recognized him and rushed to greet him, to assure him that he come to a place where he was welcome. When the tarp was removed from the statue, they stood side-by-side, their arms linked, their faces streaked with blissful tears.

– – –

Olli Maki persevered after being shellacked by Davey Moore. Eighteen months later, fighting at his more natural weight, he won the European 140-pound title with a 15-round decision over Germany’s Conny Rudhof. He lost the title in a rematch with Rudhof and failed to regain it when he lost a 15-round decision to the artful Spanish campaigner Pedro Carrasco who was in the midst of a 91-fight unbeaten streak. In retirement, Maki kept his hand in the sport as a coach and boxing official.

In the days leading up to his fight with Moore, Olli Maki was a national hero, as celebrated as the famous long distance runner Paavo Nurmi. His story touched a nerve with Juho Kuosmanen, a young Finnish filmmaker. Kuosmanen directed and co-wrote “The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki” which won a major award at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

I have not seen the movie, but I gather that the title was meant to be ironic. As the fight draws near, Maki, played by Jarkko Lahti (pictured), feels more and more put-upon as he is hustled from one meet-and-greet to another by the venal promoter as he puts the finishing touches on the advertising campaign. The frenetic schedule imposed upon him leaves him virtually no time to spend with Raija, the girl with whom he has fallen in love. At its heart, “The Happiest Day….” isn’t a boxing movie but a love story. “Raging Bull” it is not. The real Olli Maki and his wife Raija make a cameo appearance at the end of the movie.

Back in 1962 when they crossed paths in Helsinki, no one would have guessed that someday songs would be written about Davey Moore and that a statue, 8-feet-tall, would be erected to honor him. Nor would anyone have suspected that many years later Olli Maki would be immortalized in a critically acclaimed movie that had his name in the title.

Boxing is funny that way. With the passage of time, some seemingly ordinary events become larger, perhaps even monumental. And when they do, they invariably awaken bittersweet memories.

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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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