Don King, on Mike Tyson

"Why would anyone expect him to come out smarter?
He went to prison, not to Princeton."

"To me, boxing is like a ballet, except there's no music
and the dancers hit each other."

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Oscar De La Hoya Remembers Muhammad Ali 
Muhammad Ali pop art painting by John Stango

The Fire of a Champion:

 Oscar De La Hoya Remembers Muhammad Ali

The Fire of a Champion: Oscar De La Hoya Remembers Muhammad Ali: The Stanley Weston Archive / Contributor
The Stanley Weston Archive / Contributor

The first time I met him was 1979. An afternoon at the old Resurrection Gym on South Lorena in East L.A. Resurrection Gym was a dark and dingy place, a former church that still had a painting of Jesus on the wall that seemed to hover over the ring (made famous in the movie Rocky). I was just a tiny kid of six in my first year of boxing. Although I could barely hold up my gloves, I was happily following in the footsteps of my grandfather Vincente and father Joel Sr. I’ve never forgotten the tall man who walked into the gym that day. He wore a plastic gray training suit and carried a small tote bag. Silently, he went into a corner, wrapped his hands and began his workout—shadowboxing, speed bag and the heavy bag.

Suddenly, he stopped.

“Children!” he called out. The kids there, including myself, froze. “Get over here! I’ve got something to tell you.” Normally I wouldn’t have approached a stranger, but this was the sanctuary of the boxing gym. And this man seemed different.
We all walked over and crowded around. “Listen to me,” he barked. “It’s good to want to be a champion. I know that’s why you are here and why you work hard. But never forget: It doesn’t matter what happens inside the ring; what matters is what you do outside the ring.” I nodded and walked back to my father.

“Do you know who that is?” he asked me. I didn’t, but I could sense the man was someone special. “That’s Muhammad Ali.”

There are few people who change the world. Make it a better place. Even fewer who do so as athletes. Last Friday, one of those unique individuals passed away. Every corner of the planet grieved because Ali has that effect on you, whether you knew him or not. All you have to do is watch him fight. Listen to him talk. Remember what he stood for.

As I grew as a professional fighter, I always looked to Ali as an inspiration.
He taught everyone that besides the talent, besides the courage, you had to take risks. You had to dare to be great.

Ali didn’t have to face Joe Frazier three times. He didn’t have to come out of retirement and go to Zaire to battle George Foreman, who, in 1974, was undefeated and the baddest man on the planet. Ali didn’t have to stand up for his beliefs and refuse to enlist for Vietnam. He didn’t have to be stripped of his title and lose precious years of his career. But he did.

Despite the onset of Parkinson’s, standing beside him at the HBO office I could still see the light in his eyes. The fire of a champion. The two of us, Ali in his black mock turtleneck and me in my suit, smiled for the fans and posed for pictures. When we were finished, we walked back into the green room. I thought we were done, ready to go our separate ways. But he called me over. Wanted to share some last kernel of wisdom, I thought. I approached.

“Get closer, get closer,” he insisted. I leaned in. “You might be prettier,” he whispered, “but remember one thing: I’m always the greatest.”


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