For starters, it is not possible to sum up, or even comprehend the spirit of Ali in it’s entirety, let alone sum it up in a few paragraphs. Here is just an attempt at the pride aspect looking at a few facets.
I watched When We Were Kings about the Rumble in the Jungle fight of 1974 between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, acclaimed as one of the greatest fights ever by many.
Muhammad Ali is shining, he is strong, he is smooth as grease, he is the epitome of sexiness. He is the prophet of the blacks. That’s what he is really. In all the clips from the past I have seen of Ali, Ali kept speaking. I could never make much sense of it. Here, I did.
He is an inspiration for the blacks and for the spirit of humanity at large. That’s what he is. Sure, slavery was abolished a few hundred years ago. Sure, blacks rose to success. How much of the dignity was restored though? Ali calls George Foreman ugly, like he did Joe Frasier at another time (the Joe Frasier remarks crossed the line but let’s not diverge). Now, he isn’t really calling Foreman ugly. What he is doing is saying, hey, I am black, I am beautiful. How’s that?
It is a big leap. The dignity is restored. Ali tells the blacks of Africa that they have a purity as they are not corrupted and have not lost their selves in America with the whites. Not only can one rise to any level of authority, one can take pride in one’s roots and one’s self. He takes a small girl in his arm, he hugs her. He is not only giving the blacks every where pride, he is giving the poorest of poor blacks of Africa courage to believe they are great, and can achieve things.
The fight itself which ensued, was very symbolic. Muhammad Ali is not as strong as George Foreman. Not by miles. He hits Foreman a few times in the first round but realises that he doesn’t have the muscle or power Foreman does. For seven rounds after that, he takes the punches, absorbs them by the rope-a-dope, or by leaning on the ropes. Then, he delivers the knock out punch. A boxing classic for the ages. It is more than that though. It is a metaphor for the journey of the African American, of the human race itself, of many groups of people or specific people as the case may be. As often is the case, great sports tends to transcend sports in many brilliant ways.
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.