He was a fighter in so many different ways, for so many different people and causes. He was a hero because of it, however much he might have disliked or wanted to disassociate himself from such a label. As boxer he earnt the respect of friend and foes alike. Muhammad was one they could look up to. His record did much of the talking – 56 victories of which 37 were knock outs.
He earnt respect and contempt at the same time for refusing to join the draft, lest he serve in the military and go to war against North Vietnam. It was wrong to him to be bombing a nation of largely poor people and he wanted no part in it.
He was also an entertainer, whose ability to identify with people all over the world, including in New Zealand earnt him the label “People’s Champion”. Those who met him were enthralled by a man fighting a very personal battle that in the end would claim him.
And then again he was a fighter. His battle with Parkinson’s disease is legendary. His breath taking shot of the flame into the Olympic cauldron to start the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 had the world on edge, and then in raptures. Slowly the Parkinson’s took him away. But every step of it he fought. Every step of it.