My Pop used to host boxing parties when I was little. For a long time I wasn’t allowed downstairs to see the fights because I was too young to stay up late. But in my room there was floor vent that happened to be located directly above the family room where all the big events took place. It went straight through. I would lay next to it whenever my Dad and his friends gathered to watch a fight on HBO or Pay-Per-View. I remember listening to the announcers call the battle, trying to catch every word. I remember covering my mouth tight with my hand so I didn’t let out my excitement whenever my Dad and his buddies cheered.
When I was finally old enough to watch the fights with the boys, my Dad taught me all about boxing. We watched hundreds of old fights together that he had recorded on BetaMAX in the eighties. Sugar Ray Leonard. Roberto Duran. Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Mike Tyson. But my Dad especially adored Muhammad Ali and he made sure I did too. I remember watching as many Ali fights as I could, including rebroadcasts of The Fight of the Century, The Rumble in the Jungle and the Thrilla in Manila. Ali’s unique personality and talent cemented my father’s love for the sport of boxing, and it was the same for me. I instantly adored him. For his supreme skill in the ring, his quick wit and bravado, his sting.
Boxing is the only sport I watch now. It’s the only sport I love because of those late night listens and the time I spent with my Pop marveling at all the great fights and the great fighters who laced up their gloves and stepped inside the ring. But none more so than Muhammed Ali.
Tonight we lost The Greatest of All Time.
Thank you for all your talent and passion, Ali. Thank you for all your unmatched showmanship and skill. Thank you for standing up for what you believe in. And thank you for giving me so many treasured moments with my Dad. Wherever you are, I hope you’re floating like a butterfly once more.