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The Anti-War Warrior: Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

When you are right, no one remembers; when you are wrong, no one forgets.

Muhammad Ali

One of the most noteworthy facts in the biography of Mohammad Ali is how the still young and unknown boxer refused to be induced into the U.S. Army. At age 18, Ali started the professional boxing career. It was in 1960 when Ali got a call to be induced into the United States Army from the Louisville military commission. Two years later Ali was recognized as eligible for the draft and induction into the U.S. Army. Two more years passed and Ali was ready to fight Sonny Liston for the World Heavyweight Championship, meanwhile, he was again called to undergo the medical inspection and the U.S. Armed Forces qualifying tests. The medical inspection revealed no problems, and even doctor Ferdie Pacheco, who had served as Mohammad Ali’s personal physician for many years, told he had never seen a person with better health condition than Ali. He also noted that even in the case of illness Ali was always fine the next morning.

As to the IQ test, Ali got only 78 points, which was 14 points less than the threshold set for military services in the United States. Two months later, when Ali was already a World Champion, the military revised his IQ test results, and the picture was the same. In this regard, Ali was quoted as saying “I said I was the greatest, not the smartest!”

In 1966 the overall system, including the army induction conditions, were reviewed. According to the new criteria, Ali was now eligible for the induction. He was forced to join the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War. However, Ali started fighting against war and traveled throughout the country with anti-war calls. He neither left the country nor hid in any remote and safe corner of the planet. In those years, the California Governor and the future United States President Ronald Reagan was among the people fighting against him. Militarists were trying to put an end to Ali’s initiative and force him to join the army, while pacifists, who obviously were a minority and mostly involved blacks, supported Muhammad.

This “fight” was the longest in Ali’s career, it did not last 12 rounds, but entire 56 years. Being neglected by the citizen of his home country, as well as facing criticism and curses, Ali traveled to Canada and Europe and did not fight in the USA for a long time.

Ali spent his whole life by “fighting” in two fronts- he was struggling against war and was fighting in the professional ring to defend his champions’ title. Of course, Ali’s career was not smooth and flower-bordered, there were scandalous days as well, such as, for example, the “Fight of the Century” with Joe Fraizer, however, in history books Ali will be reconciled as the greatest boxer of all times, as a champion who had victories both inside and outside the ring.

For 32 years, Ali struggled against Parkinson’s syndrome, however, in 2016 “The Greatest” passed away in one of the hospitals in Scottsdale. Ali’s funeral was preplanned by himself and others beginning years prior to his actual death. As he planned, his memorial service was held in “Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center”, where the legendary boxer had his last professional ring.

Ali was fond of saying, “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.” On 2 June 2016, Ali fell asleep, this time forever, and many of his dreams remained unfulfilled…

Gevorg Loretsyan