I don’t care for boxing, never have. But like most of the world, I do have a high regard for probably the greatest fighter of them all, the late Mohammad Ali. He won 52 of 64 fights in his career. He won The World Heavy Weight Champion title 3 times. He once said of boxing that it was a sport where “a lot of White men watching two black men beat each other up”
Many mourn him today as great fighter, but most will do so because of his stand on Human Rights and Racial Equality. When he won his first Championship title in 1964 racial segregation in the south was still at full tilt. He could walk the world’s stage but not into a bar in the south.
Outside the ring his greatest fight was his refusal to be drafted into the US army that wanted to send him to Vietnam to fight what he called a “white man’s War”
He answered his call-up and attended the induction Centre, and when his name was called he stood still and refused to step up to the table. He was warned that he would be arrested if he continued to stand there. His name was called again, he stood stock still. Ali didn’t run to Canada, he just stood his ground. He was warned that he was committing a felony. For a third time they called him to the table and he didn’t move.
He was arrested, charged and convicted. He was sentenced to the maximum penalty of five years in jail and $10,000.00 fine. He was stripped of his world champion title and banned for 3 years by the American Boxing board from fighting.
Ali appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court and won, unanimously, and was released from prison.
This what he had to say about that decision that set the tone for the rest of his life’s work.
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?
No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.
But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is right here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality…
If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.”