Though boxing is an individual sport every successful fighter has a support team behind him. Next to trainer Angelo Dundee, the key member of Ali’s team was Drew “Bundini” Brown. It has been said that while Dundee was the trainer who directed Ali’s body, Bundini Brown was the one who massaged his soul. Called Ali’s “spirit coach,” he was the court jester while Ali was the king. Bundini was Ali’s co-conspirator in many of his pre and post-fight antics as well as co-author on many of his rhyming recitations. Prior to becoming part of Ali’s inner circle, he worked in the corner of the great Sugar Ray Robinson. Bundini was introduced to Ali by Sugar Ray in New York in 1963 prior to Ali’s fight there against Doug Jones. He remained in Ali’s corner throughout the rest of Ali’s career with one notable exception. Shortly after Ali’s embracing of the Black Muslim faith, Bundini was exiled from Ali’s camp for his mixed marriage to a Russian-Jewish woman. Brown briefly joined Canadian George Chuvalo’s corner for his 1966 title bout against Ali. He was then re-instated to Ali’s entourage and was back in the corner for Ali’s defense against Zora Folley in 1967. He remained with Ali thereafter. Brown also did some work as an actor. He had bit parts in Shaft, Shaft’s Big Score, and The Color Purple as well as several other films. In addition, he portrayed himself in a few more. Ali was able to visit with Brown one last time just prior to his death. Brown passed away in 1987.
While continuing with my initially stated subject matter for this blog, I’ve decided to add another category to the mix. Acknowledging The All Time Greats posts will contain my picks for the individuals I believe to be the greatest of all times in their respective sports. Some will also be my all-time favorite, some will not. I will include stats and information that led me to, and justify, my choices. I expect, and invite, supporting and opposing feedback to my choices. So, let’s get started. First up is an obvious choice, and in this case also my favorite. The greatest boxer of all-time in my opinion is Muhammad Ali. As stated in my book, no fighter before or since has possessed the combination size, hand speed, and mobility demonstrated by Ali. Those things combined with his cat quick reflexes and granite chin made Ali the total package. The old adage that the best big man beats the best little man means Ali’s size eliminates the argument for non-heavyweights. Ali opponent Bob Foster supports this reasoning. Foster was a great fighter and the long reigning light-heavyweight king. But he was defeated by Ali and every other heavyweight contender he fought. He destroyed any and all light-heavyweights he took on as well as any lower weight fighters who tried to move up in weight to take his crown. But he couldn’t beat the big boys. I believe Ali’s size, speed and elusiveness would have been enough to beat Dempsey, Louis and Marciano. They are the ones most mentioned as Ali’s competition for the all-time greatest fighter. All three struggled, even in victory, against quick, elusive boxers who were not as talented as Ali. Ali took on some of the biggest punchers in his day and in history. He never failed to finish on his feet, even when his jaw was broken in the first round against Norton. In 56 wins he scored 37 knockouts and nineteen decision wins, meaning he stopped 2 out of every 3 proving he had better than average power in his punches. He avenged the 3 decision losses that went against him prior to his retiring as the only three-time heavyweight champion. Two of those, Norton and Frazier, he beat twice. That means upon his retirement as the three time heavyweight champ, Ali had conquered every opponent he faced as a professional. He defended his title nineteen times during his two reigns. There’s no telling how many more defenses would have been accumulated if 3 1/2 years from first reign as champ, in the middle of his prime, hadn’t been stolen away. One could argue that the first two comeback fights against Quarry and Bonavena were also defenses of the title the then still undefeated Ali never lost in the ring. In 1998, Ring magazine (known as “the bible” of boxing) rated him the greatest heavyweight of all-time. Ring also had previously named him the fighter of the decade for the seventies. In 1998, GQ magazine named him the Athlete of the Century. In 1999, SI named Ali Sportsman of the Century and the BBC named him Sports Personality of the Century. For all of the above, and so much more, Ali is my pick for the greatest boxer of all-time.
With St. Patrick’s Day fast approaching, many having Irish ancestry will wear t-shirts or message buttons with clever sayings like “Kiss me, I’m Irish.” Well, you can include Muhammad Ali as one who can legitimately wear such items. His great-grandfather on his mother’s side of the family, Abe Grady, immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland in the 1860’s, settling in Kentucky. He married a freed slave there, and one of their grandchildren was Muhammad Ali’s mother, Odessa Lee Grady Clay. In September of 2009, Ali traveled to Ennis, County Clare, the home of his great-grandfather and met with several of his distant relatives there. The town also bestowed upon him its highest honor. But that wasn’t his first trip to the land of his Irish ancestors. In 1972, he traveled to Dublin where he fought fellow heavyweight contender Al “Blue” Lewis in Croke Park. He also traveled to Ireland in 2003 to attend the Opening ceremonies for the Special Olympics. So, on St. Patrick’s Day, when raising a glass to fellow Irishmen everywhere don’t forget to wish “Happy St. Patrick’s Day!” to Muhammad Ali.
When asked to speak about my book to members of the TRIO group at Miami Dade College back on February 19, I prepared a checklist for the event. As I stated in my follow-up post, with one exception, I thought the event was a success. Being that I intended to bring copies of my book to make available for purchase, I carried an adequate cash bank to make necessary change. It never occurred to me that most college students, and an ever growing number of people in general, do not carry cash. I missed out on several immediate onsite sales opportunities. Under the “Live and Learn” category , I returned home that evening and went online to search for a solution. I discovered that there are reasonably priced devices to attach to your cell phone that will allow you to accept credit card payments. There are numerous makes from which to choose. You simply purchase one compatible with your phone, download the app, and follow the instructions provided. I would advise any self-published authors intending to do events where their books will be available for purchase to look into this small investment. I now have mine and I’m ready for the next sales opportunity.
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