Legendary American boxer Muhammad Ali’s passing away on Friday came as blow to the athlete’s legions of fans, including President Barack Obama.
Stating that the three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer was first of all, “The Greatest. Period,” Obama penned a touching eulogy celebrating the late boxer’s contributions to our society.
Of Muhammad Ali’s passing, the president wrote the following.
“Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing. But we’re also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time.”
As Obama details, “everyone on the planet” might indeed be mourning the death of the legendary boxer, for he is known to be one of the most famous and beloved athletes today.
He shook up the world, and the world’s better for it. Rest in peace, Champ. pic.twitter.com/z1yM3sSLH3
— President Obama (@POTUS) June 4, 2016
Muhammad Ali, 74, who had been hospitalized in a Phoenix-area hospital for a respiratory issue, had actually been battling Parkinson’s Disease for 32 long years.
President Obama eulogized the boxing icon’s brave fight against disease, saying that it may have “ravaged his body, but couldn’t take the spark from his eyes.”
Obama had previously written of Ali’s strength in the face of adversity for USA TODAY.
“It was this quality of Ali’s that I have always admired the most: his unique ability to summon extraordinary strength and courage in the face of adversity, to navigate the storm and never lose his way.”
The president even revealed that he keeps a pair of the World Champion’s gloves on display in his private study, speaking of Ali’s talents both in the ring and out.
“[T]he Ali I came to know as I came of age [was] not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right. A man who fought for us. He stood with King and Mandela; stood up when it was hard; spoke out when others wouldn’t. His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today.”
Muhammad Ali, as Obama said, was a modern-day renaissance man: a fiery competitor in the ring, an eloquent spoken-word artist, and a major figure in the 1960s civil rights movement.
Obama had spoken before to USA TODAY of Ali’s “most lasting contribution,” which was his “becoming a force for reconciliation and peace around the world.”
— Street Art 360 (@StreetArtEyes1) June 4, 2016
From his strong anti-war stance during the Vietnam War (which got him stripped of his heavy wight World Champion title and convicted for draft evasion) to his allegiance to the Nation of Islam, the boxing legend’s political stances were always highly controversial at the time, but later understood (the U.S. supreme court later overturned his conviction for his anti-war stance), as reported by The Guardian.
Obama even quoted Ali, who spoke up about his experience being himself and proud of it in America.
“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me – black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.”
Muhammad Ali, the late boxing icon, was “a colossus not only in the boxing ring but the arenas of politics, religion and popular culture” as stated by The Guardian.
President Barack Obama continued his tribute of the legend, thanking Ali again for all his contributions to society.
“Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it.”
[Photo by Harry Benson/Getty Images]