The other key member in Muhammad Ali’s corner throughout his fight career was with him longer than all the rest. In fact, he was the only one who was with him even before Ali had the notion to even put on a pair of boxing gloves. It was his one and only baby brother. Rudolph Arnett Clay was born approximately eighteen months after big brother Cassius. Being so close in age that they literally grew up together. So, it’s not surprising that Rudy followed his big brother into the sport of boxing. It’s rare that a son, younger sibling, or any close relative following a “superstar” elder into the same field of work receives proper credit for their own accomplishments. Even if he or she has a decent career, they are always held to the higher standard set by the superstar relative. And Rudy Clay, later Rahaman Ali, was no exception. He was a good amateur boxer. But he failed to make the boxing team for the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, unlike his brother who brought home Olympic gold. While Rudy remained an amateur, his brother went about climbing the contender ranks towards the world heavyweight championship. Rudy finally turned pro in 1964. His successful pro debut took place on the undercard the night his brother won the heavyweight championship of the world in a shocking upset over Sonny Liston. Rudy went undefeated in his first seven pro bouts. When his brother the champ announced he had become a Black Muslim to be now known as Muhammad Ali, Rudy also had converted and changed his name to Rahaman Ali. While continuing his own albeit slower developing pro boxing career, he became a fixture in his brother’s entourage serving as his chief sparring partner and defacto bodyguard. When big brother was suspended from boxing and exiled for over three years for refusing induction in to the military, the record reflects that the then 4-0, 2 kos, Rahaman Ali also did not have a fight during that time. He resumed his own fight career two months prior to Muhammad’s Oct. 1970 comeback and recorded a win. He then fought on the undercards of Muhammad’s first three return bouts. And just like his big brother, he won the first 2 fights before suffering his first pro loss on the same night Muhammad lost to Frazier. Rahaman then reeled off another 7 straight victories over the next couple of years. But after a draw and two defeats in his next 3 fights, punctuated by a knockout loss to Jack O’Halloran on 9-13-72, Rahaman Ali retired with a 14-3-1 record. Rahaman continued to work for and travel the world with his brother until Muhammad Ali retired from boxing. In a recent interview he said that the two remained close and stayed in touch until he had a falling out with Muhammad’s wife Lonnie, claiming that after that she would not allow him to see or talk to Muhammad. Twice during Ali’s final couple of years, Rahaman was criticized for “crying wolf’ to the press about his brother having died or being near death. Both times the claims were proven false by statements and photos provided by Muhammad Ali’s children. Rahaman Ali says that his words were misquoted or taken out of context. Some siblings might grow resentful and bitter after a lifetime in a famous sibling’s shadow. But that does not appear to be the case with Rahaman Ali. In fact, his autobiography published in January of 2015 is entitled, “That’s Muhammad Ali’s Brother! My Life on the Undercard” and was co-written with H. Ron Brashear. He says he wants that same title carved on his tombstone. Rahaman Ali says he lived a great life thanks to his famous brother. He helped to oversee the restoration of the childhood home where he and Muhammad grew up in Louisville during it’s conversion to museum status. Although not diagnosed with Parkinson’s as of yet, he has said he is suffering from the onset of memory loss. Now age 73, Rahaman Ali is happily married to his wife of over nine years, his best friend, Caroline.
Dr. Ferdie Pacheco was known as the “Fight Doctor” for his work as Muhammad Ali’s personal physician and as one of his corner men. He also worked with 11 other world champions. In previous posts I wrote about the other two prominent figures that occupied the Ali corner: Angelo Dundee and Bundini Brown. In interviews, Dr. Pacheco has called Ali the greatest fighter ever. In an interview after Ali’s passing, he called Ali a genuine good guy, a humanitarian who loved children and loved to make people laugh. Dr. Pacheco has been referred to as a Renaissance man for his numerous productive careers. In addition to his work with Ali, he has been a successful pharmacist, a practicing medical doctor, a decorated abstract artist, a television boxing commentator, and a published author. In addition to his expert fight commentary on NBC, Showtime, and Univision, he served for 10 years as the NBC boxing consultant on safety issues. Ambulances at fight venues, changing the number of ring ropes from 3 to a safer 4, and thumb-less gloves to reduce eye damage were a few of the things he brought forth. He left Ali’s corner after the Earnie Shaver’s fight, voicing his concern for Ali’s deteriorating health. Pacheco has said Ali paid a high price in the end for the life he chose. But he said he didn’t feel sorry for Ali because it was the greatest life anyone could have. Pacheco now resides in his hometown of Tampa, FL with his wife of over 40 years. He is the author of over 20 published books, was the subject of a documentary film entitled “The World of the Fight Doctor,” and his paintings have won a Gold Medal and 1st Place in Tonneins, France and 1st prize, Best Colorist at Musee Du Luxemburg. Some of the subjects of his abstract portraits include: Ali, Sinatra, Gandhi, MLK, Elvis, Picasso, Puccini, FDR, Einsten, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, Rocky Marciano, and Woody Allen, to name a few.
Mildred Ella Didriksen was called the female version of Jim Thorpe. Better known as Babe Didrikson, she was arguably the greatest female athlete who ever lived. The daughter of Norwegian immigrant parents, Babe grew up in Beaumont, Texas. Babe was born to play sports. As a young girl she stated her one goal was to be the greatest athlete ever. She did everything within her power to make her goal a reality. It did not seem to matter what the sport was, Babe would excel at it. Among the sports she mastered along the way were: basketball, baseball, tennis, football, fencing, tumbling, weightlifting, swimming, diving, boxing, volleyball, handball, bowling, skating, cycling, golf, billiards, competitive dancing, and more. And she strove to be the best at them all. She even won a sewing competition championship at the Texas state fair. When asked if there was anything she didn’t play she answered, “Yeah, dolls.” She claimed her nickname was given her by boys who marveled at her ability crush a baseball. Born into a time when girls were discouraged from, and even looked at disparagingly for, playing sports, Babe ignored her critics while pursuing athletic greatness with voracity. Babe was a jock and didn’t care who knew or what they thought about it. In basketball, she was a three time All-American and 1931 national AAU champion. In track and field, she won the 1932 national AAU track meet as a one woman team by competing in and winning multiple events while setting 5 world records. This qualified her for 5 events in the 1932 Olympic Games. However, the rules in place at the time limited her to taking part in only 3 events. She won gold medals in the 80 meter hurdles and the javelin throw and took silver in the high jump. She was named AP Athlete of the Year in 1931. Upon return from the Olympics, she toured with barnstorming basketball and baseball teams as well as in vaudeville. She took up golf in 1933 and preceded to pursue greatness in the game with unbridled passion. She met pro wrestling villain George Zaharias at the 1938 LA Open and 11 months later became Babe Didrikson Zaharias. As a professional golfer she was the fastest in the women’s game to achieve 10 wins (1 yr, 20 days), 20 wins (2 yrs, 4 mos.), and 30 wins (5 yrs, 22 days). In 1946-47, she won 17 of 18 tournaments including 13 consecutive in 1946. She captured both the 1946 Women’s U.S. Amateur and 1947 Women’s British Amateur during this streak. Babe was named the AP Athlete of the Year in ’45, ’46, ’47, ’50, and ’54 as well as previously mentioned in 1931. Babe won the Women’s U.S. Open in ’48, ’50, and ’54. She won the Women’s Western Open ’40, ’44, ’45, and ’50. In 1949, along with Patty Berg and Fred Corcoran, she founded the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). In 1950, she won the LPGA equivalent of the Grand Slam by capturing all 3 majors played that year. Babe captured 10 major titles, 41 career LPGA victories and 55 total career victories. She was the tour money leader in ’50 and ’51. She was also the first woman to qualify for and compete in PGA tour events. Babe’s confidence in her natural athletic ability, dedication to sport, determination to excel, and win at all costs attitude were said to have alienated some opponents and teammates alike. She was famous for saying, “Well, Babe’s here. Who’s coming in second?” She often said, “I don’t see the point of playing the game if you don’t win. Do you?” But that brashness and cocky attitude were what drew attention from the media and brought spectators to the fledgling LPGA’s events, helping it survive those early years. Much like Muhammad Ali would years later, Babe understood athletes were entertainers as well as competitors. So she used braggadocio to give her an edge over opponents and to bring out crowds. The crowds were always bigger when she was in the field. When asked how she hit the ball so far she said, “I just loosen up my girdle and give it a rip.” Babe was diagnosed to have cancer in April of 1953. Doctors said at the time she would never play golf again. Fifteen months after surgery and treatment, Babe had not only returned to the LPGA tour, but she won the 1954 Women’s U.S. Open by a dominating 12 stroke margin. In addition, she claimed the Vare Trophy that year for low scoring average. She also tackled raising money and awareness for cancer research and treatment with the same drive and determination to succeed as she did her sports career. Unfortunately, cancer was the one opponent that Babe couldn’t get past. Babe Didrikson Zaharias passed away in September of 1956 at the age of 45. She was laid to rest in her hometown at the Beaumont Forest Lawn Cemetery. Babe was the recipient of the USGA’s Bob Jones Award in 1957 (posthumous). She was named the female Athlete of the Century by the AP and SI. In 1976, a museum was built in Beaumont off Interstate 10 as a tribute to Babe. It houses many of the awards, trophies, and other mementos from her lifetime in sports. It is open to the public every day but Christmas. Some argue that she may be the greatest athlete of all time period. But, at the very least, for all of the above, Babe Didrikson Zaharias is indeed the greatest female all around athlete of all time.
Last week another reader weighed in with a 5 star review which included the following:
“David Allen Bates’ “Odes On Ali: A Tribute to the Greatest” captures the world heavyweight boxing champion in the most perfect format – poems. …Bates’ use of the ode shows the love of a true fan and that fan’s talent as a poet.”
You can read the entire review at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B016VJFP76
Muhammad Ali and Smokin’ Joe Frazier put on what was considered by many the greatest fight trilogy of all-time. They waged all-out war through three brutally savage fights. I am sure there are probably many out there who have no idea there was actually an Ali-Frazier IV. The legacy of Ali versus Frazier was re-ignited in the ring over twenty-five years after their last battle in “The Thrilla In Manila.” And no, it wasn’t a senior citizen scrap by two over-the-hill ex-champs in their sixties. Ali-Frazier IV was waged by their daughters, Laila Ali and Jacqui Frazier-Lyde. From the very moment that both had decided to enter the world of women’s professional boxing their eventual showdown seemed inevitable. The contentious nature of the two families’ history would allow for nothing less. It’s been reported that after Laila Ali won her pro debut, and was quoted as claiming she couldn’t be beat, Jacqui Frazier-Lyde decided to answer the challenge. Frazier-Lyde was at the time a 38 yr old practicing lawyer and a mother of 3. A former college basketball player, she went to the gym to get her 5″9″ 210 lb. body into fighting shape. Once dropping the necessary weight and getting into fighting form, in a year’s time, Frazier -Lyde went undefeated in 7 fights. Meanwhile, the 23 yr old Ali continued with her fledgling career compiling a 9-0 record with 8 kos. During that time, the two fought twice each on various fight cards at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY to build familiarity and interest in a proposed meeting. The fight was set as the main event on a Pay-Per-View card at the resort/casino on June 8, 2001. While both fighters adapted their father’s respective fighting styles, in a complete role reversal, it seems the pre-fight hype was more the talkative litigator Frazier-Lyde’s forte than the quieter Ali’s. She even adopted the family nickname calling herself “Sister Smoke.” But the natural inherited animosity was no doubt there for both women. Ali called her opponent a mere opportunist while Frazier-Lyde labeled Ali entitled and arrogant. Their fight was the first women’s boxing match to headline a Pay-per-View card and they drew a crowd of over 6,500. 300 plus members of the media were in attendance. Joe Frazier was there for the fight but Muhammad Ali was not. Though the actual numbers weren’t released, both women were allegedly guaranteed a minimum purse of $100,000 with a possibility of $250,000 depending on PPV sales. Both were records for a women’s professional boxing match. The PPV went for $24.95. The actual bout turned out to be more clinching and grappling than actual exchanging of clean blows. The referee was even reported to have temporarily halted the action at one point to allow Frazier-Lyde to catch her breath. But the enthusiasm and aggression from both fighters was clear. Laila Ali was able to get the family trademark jab working and rode it to a majority decision win. And while Frazier-Lyde clamored for a re-match, the Ali camp showed no interest. Frazier-Lyde would later claim she had broken Ali’s collarbone during the bout, sidelining Ali for a year, while she herself soon after captured the WIBA lt-hvywt title. Frazier-Lyde had hoped public demand would eventually dictate the re-match, but that never happened. She went unbeaten in the rest of her career going 13-1 with one no contest. She also won the WIBF super-middle-wt and UBA hvywt titles. Laila Ali finished her career undefeated with a perfect 24-0 record with 21 kos . She won the WIBA, IWBF, IBA, and WBC super middlewt titles as well as the IWBF lt-hvywt title. And she was the winner of Ali-Frazier IV.