Saturday 17 March 2018

My hero may be gone, but Muhammad Ali's flame will never be extinguished

Young boxing fanatic Joe Corcoran takes comfort in the fact The Greatest's story shall always be remembered

The greatest: Ali's first-round KO vs Liston in 1965 Photo: Associated Press
The greatest: Ali's first-round KO vs Liston in 1965 Photo: Associated Press

Joe Corcoran

July 19, 1996, Muhammad Ali emerges from the northern end of the Centennial Olympic Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, to light the torch at the opening ceremony of the 26th Summer Games. At 55 years old, he is a shadow of the athletic phenomenon he once was. His face is expressionless and his whole figure shakes perilously as he raises the flame up before an applauding and, in many cases, tearful crowd of 85,000 people.

Ali, the man, will live for another 19 years but this is the last chapter in his public story. It is the last time that the most famous man in the world will hold the entire world's attention. How poetic that he should finally relinquish that attention at the same event he first demanded it, 36 years earlier as a spry 18-year-old light-heavyweight boxer.

I was born exactly six months after that day in Atlanta. I never got to see Muhammad Ali fight. I never got to see him interviewed live because, by then, he could hardly speak. My mother was less than a month old when he won gold at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. My father was born five months after he was stripped of his title for refusing to participate in the Vietnam war.

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