My Evening With the G.O.A.T.

****Re-post in honor of The G.O.A.T / Original January 17 2012****

Upon hearing that today is the 70th Birthday for the (Greatest of All Time) Muhammad Ali, it reminded me of the evening that I was honored to spend with The Champ.  The year was 2005 and the occasion was “The Butterfly Ball” in Atlanta, Georgia.  The event was a fundraiser for The Ali Center, a museum dedicated to the career and humanitarian efforts of Ali that was being constructed in Louisville, KY.

Before I go further you have to understand what Muhammad Ali meant to me growing up in the 70s.  As a child there were two celebrities that I looked up to.  Muhammad Ali and then Sugar Ray Leonard.  At the time I was too young to understand Ali’s political and heroic defiant stand against participating in the Vietnam War, and I wasn’t necessarily a boxing aficionado.  But what I did recognize was Ali’s charm, confidence, star power and unapologetic boldness in public at a time when many black public figures wouldn’t dare.  Inwardly I knew he was making a place for me and his persona gave me a definite sense of pride.  Muhammad Ali to me was so significant that he was almost legend and unreal; An ethereal figure on television that may as well have been from outer space in terms of what I felt was my chance at ever seeing him face to face.  That feeling never left me even as I grew older and cried when he lost in humiliating fashion at the of his career.

Ali and Lewis

(Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis, Tom Joyner)

The event was star studded and included people like Cornel West, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Andrew Young, Tom Joyner, and many others including former Heavy Weight Champion Lennox Lewis, who gave $2 million of his own money because of the love he has for The Champ.  Brian McKnight had a trio set for the entertainment.  The week before making the trip to the ATL, I called Ali’s people and asked if there was a chance that I could meet The Champ and get a photo.  The woman on the phone told me that Ali hadn’t been feeling well as of late, but when he is generally he’s very generous of such request.  I hoped for the best.

After dinner and music, several speakers came up to talk about what Muhammad Ali has meant to them.  The most touching was probably Professor West who couldn’t hold back his tears as well as Ali’s daughter Lala who also tearfully recalled so many occasions where ‘daddy’  loved and cherished her and her siblings.  I was about 25 feet from the podium in awe.

Lala Ali

(Lala Ali, Jesse Jackson, Muhammad Ali)

Finally when The Champ got up, he struggled to stand and speak but offered several jokes and took assorted pot shots and the people he loved.  Except for the laughs the room was totally silent as he spoke.  He was a total hoot.  When he finished and after he exited the stage I wanted to get a hand shake and possibly a photo.  The celebrities were getting theirs in and I was sort of intimidated to step in.  But then I thought to myself, “It’s now or never.  To hell with it man get in there!”

So I made my way through the big shots and tried to approach him.  He had a handler with him and I said, “Is it ok if I take a picture with The Champ?”  The handler said, “The Champ is tired and we need to get him out of here so he can rest.”  And this is what I’ll never forget…what gave Ali the beyond the universe status with me.  He heard me and pushed his handler away motioning me to come close to him.  I shook his hand and said my peace in his ear, then needed to get this photo taken quickly.  Over my right shoulder is Mayor Andrew Young.  I said, “Mayor would you mind,” handing him my camera.  He smiled with enthusiasm and said, “Sure.”  And there struggling to stand on his own The Champ made two fist and took that damn picture.

A few seconds later I looked at the camera hoping to God that the mayor didn’t screw up my photo and there it was.  I stared at it.  A photo of me and Muhammad Ali.  I thought back to my childhood and all that he had meant to me and thinking how untouchable I thought he’d be.  It was surreal as if time had stood still.  All I could think to myself was, “That’s freaking Muhammad Ali.  That’s freaking Muhammad Ali!”  Talking about ‘floating like a butterfly….’

If he had went on his way without taking the photo I still would have felt blessed.  It would have been all good and I would have understood.  But the fact that he pressed his way and didn’t “big time” me as just another cat he’s met out of millions, I will NEVER FORGET THAT!

For this reason as well as the many others are why he will always be The G.O.A.T. to me!

Happy Birthday Champ!

Me & The Greatest of All Time

(Me and the G.O.A.T.)

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Roy Jones Jr. vs. Bernard Hopkins

It’s no Floyd Jr. vs Manny… not even Floyd v Hatton or Manny whomever.

But if I can watch this free somewhere I probably will.

I love boxing so I’m sort of a sucker for the big names. 

I just wonder if this will be about anything.

Jones has been washed up for a minute. 

Bernard is always in shape and will fight a smart fight. 

That much we know at least.

Like I said… If I can see it for free!

Sorry but this needs to be straight HBO or Showtime!

2 Cents

NBA commissioner David Stern has some definite double standards going with the way he’s handled the Gilbert Arenas situation comparing to how he’s handled others; in particular his silence in the wake of Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his own legal issues concerning African-Americans and Latinos.  But Arenas didn’t help himself by continuing to joke about the guns in the locker room issue.  His indefinite suspension may endure through this season because his legal issues probably won’t be settled by April.  In the picture his teammates are shown laughing and joking with him about it, and yet the league isn’t saying anything about that either.  Gilbert is and will be made an example of.  

I love Floyd Mayweather as a boxer, but I believe he doesn’t want any of Manny Pacquiao right now.  All of that bickering about blood test was just a smoke-screen in most boxing fans minds.   Now Manny moves on to fight Joshua Clottey on March 13. 

I don’t know if he doesn’t want to fight Manny now meaning March or not at all.  I suspect he will have to acquiesce at some point however, if he wants to secure his ultimate boxing legacy as the best pound for pound in his era.

Weekend Sports at a Glance

Manny Pacquiao (right) of the Philippines lands a punch on the face of Miguel Angel Cotto of Puerto Rico before Pacquiao won their WBO Welterweight Championship bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Nov. 14 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Pacquiao won his seventh world title in as many divisions.

Manny Pacquiao whooped up on Miguel Cotto Saturday night.  Manny is a freak and the only way we are going to settle this pound for pound mess is for he and Money May (Floyd Mayweather Jr.) get it on.  I say summer 2010!  Make it happen fellas!

And yes Floyd should get more but don’t try to make like Manny don’t bring fans in cause he does.  Somewhere between 60-55% should do. 

But if Manny sings “Sometimes When We Touch, on Jimmy Kimmel Live or anyone else’s show, he should fork over another 20% immediately!  Bro!  Put down the mike and stick with the gloves!

The Bengals swept my Steelers?  WTF?

And Marvin Lewis, do you really want to bring in Larry Johnson?  Come on!  That’s actually good news for us Steelers fans.  Go ahead and F up a good thing you got going.

Other Questions:

Has Touchdown Jesus had enough of Charlie Weiss’ act? 

I mean, he definitely fooled their dumb asses into giving him that ridiculous contract.  I ain’t mad that he got over.  The elites at ND must be the same type of folk who run other Fortune 500 companies into the ground! 

Reason 126 of why Michael Jordan sucks as a GM!

While most GMs and team presidents hang around their ball clubs and spend hours on the phone with scouts evaluating talent, or speaking other GMs proposing trades, trying to figure out how they can improve the team, MJ when he’s not golfing is sitting courtside at a Miami Heat game becasue Dwayne Wade is endorsing the Jordan brand and wearing his gear.  Way to prioritize MJ.  You never disappoint to show who #1 is!

And YES my Flyers are still in the mix!  They are in the semifinals this weekend as they look to repeat as Illinois State Champions!

They will play at Wheaton Warrenville South on Saturday outside of Chicago.  (One of the nicest neighborhoods I have ever been in.)  Two years ago they beat us at this same stage of the playoffs.  We need to return the favor this year!  Go Flyers!

Flyers WR Keante Minor (7, at right) makes the catch from QB Detchauz Wray (not shown) as O

Weekend of Activity

Lots going on over the weekend.  I wasn’t around to experience much of it but I’ll hit what I know and ask for clarity on the rest. 

Sunday Morning Obamathon

President Obama discusses the economy and other topics with CNN's John King.

After a late night watching the Mayweather fight over my cousin’s house, I totally slept in on Sunday morning and therefore missed Obamathon.  I undertand he hit up all of the major Sunday morning talk shows.  Saw a few clips this morning along with the standard Republican responses of how ineffective he was in stating his plans etc.  It will take some time to catch up to see if anything substantive was there.  If anyone cares to comment (intelligently) then let it rip. 

Intelligently – Doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with the president.  Only that the comment is free from hyperbole, lies and name-calling.

May is Money!

Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Juan Manuel Marquez

It was amazing the way Floyd Mayweather dominated Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday night in spite of being out of the ring for over a year.  Marquez, a well respected fighter who many believe defeated Manny Pacquiao who is considered by many to be the best pound for pound looked like an amateur against the speedy and slick “Money May.”

Mayweather is a “change the game” kind of fighter now.  By that I mean he makes us alter the standard in which we view the sport as it relates to the competition.  Tiger Woods did this.  So did Lou Alcinder. (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)   In other words, when the NCAA doesn’t allow dunking because one guy is going to kill the rest of the sport, he changed the game.  Shaq did it too in that the NBA allowed zone defenses to be played in a  league that prided itself on promoting ‘one on one’ competition.  May has now done that in boxing.  I know this by the hate he gets from the media. Surely they don’t love him like they loved Oscar.   And also the way Marquez acknowledged that he was dominated, but was reduced to feeling that he is now a legitimate fighter after being in the ring with Mayweather.  This was Marquez’s comment in the post fight news conference.

“I proved that I can fight.  I gave it my all and I tried.”

What?  This man, a world class fighter of almost 20 years now thinks he can fight cause he “tried” against Mayweather. 

Hey man, whatever.

Mayweather is old school talk the talk and walk the walk.  He said all that needed to be said on Saturday night.

Quick Hits

My Steelers lost a tough game!  Jeff Reed had one of those forgettable days kicking the ball.  Hey, it’s early.  Be like that sometimes.  Love the way Mike Tomlin handled it after the game.  He doesn’t run from the truth but he sticks with his guys in a positive “can do – will do” attitude.  True professional and this is why his guys respect him and will continue to play hard for him.

Trojan Horse

It’s been said that Pete Carrol never loses a big game, only the small ones.  With or without the true freshman QB, they had no reason to lose to Washington on Saturday night.  Perhaps its early enough for them to work their way back into a BCS championship game should they run the table from here.  But who knows.

Joe McKnight

Fight Time!

Once again it’s on! 

I have not quite gotten the MMA bug as of yet.   I hear names of fighters like Silva

But there’s nothing like the ‘sweet science of boxing.’  I love the sport especially when we get to see the best of the best.  This will be the case tomorrow night in Las Vegas when Floyd “Money May” Mayweather Jr. takes on Juan Manuel Marquez.

The fight we REALLY want to see is Money May vs. Manny Pacquiao.  But thats part of the aura of boxing.  Sometimes we have to wait and the build up and ancitipation makes the showdown even more exciting.

  As a Mayweather guy though, I know he needs to win this one and he’s been out of the game for a minute.  He is a great fighter that’s for sure.

Floyd Mayweather, left, and Juan...

The Golden Age for The Golden Boy

Oscar De La Hoya

Well it’s the end of an era for another boxer.  Oscar De La Hoya was dismantled in Las Vegas on Saturday night by the rising Filipino star Manny Pacquiao.  Though I have not seen the fight yet, everything I hear and read suggest that he was utterly dominated to the point of refusing to leave his corner for the 8th round.  This is now what we are used to seeing from Oscar.  For most of his storied career he has been the ring master.  Now it’s time to hang up the gloves and continue furthering his business ventures. 

I can’t let Oscar go out the door however without giving it up to a great champion.  Oscar was the best thing in boxing overall since the Muhammad Ali/Sugar Ray Leonard era in my opinion.   Since the Golden Boy won Gold in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona,  he has fought the best of the best and has never ducked anyone.  I can remember some suspect decisions that I thought he was the beneficiary of.   Pernell Whitaker and Ike Quartey come to mind immediately. Still De La Hoya defeated 17 world champions and won 10 titles in 6 different weight classes.  He also generated more money than any boxer in the history of the sport.  Because of his good looks, charming personality and million dollar smile, Oscar De La Hoya fights generated more women Pay Per View (PPV) subscribers than men.  That kind of exposure was good for the sport which has suffered from too much greed by promoters and too little exposure to great fights without fans having to shell out big bucks for PPV.

Speaking of promoters, Oscar started his own, Golden Boy Promotions, Inc. for the specific purpose of giving boxers more options and independence from the suspect promoters that have helped down the sport.  Oscar owns the major shares of the business,  partnering with other boxers who were also his rivals such as Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley.  Though Mosley and Hopkins are in the twilight of their respective careers, putting the business of boxing into the hands of boxers who put in the training and hard work to provide the matches is something hardly ever seen in the sport.   Many of their fights are on cable TV, where someone with HBO or Showtime can see them without paying extra.

I grew up loving the sport of boxing.  One of the greatest moments of my life was meeting Muhammad Ali.  He and Ray Leonard were a couple of my hero’s as a kid.  I remember when an up and coming  Mike Tyson would fight on ABC’s Wide World of Sports on Saturday afternoons.  There are so many great boxers I can’t name them all on this post.  The sport has a lot of work to do if it wants to maintain an edge in this competetive market while guys like me get older and young people flock to Mixed Martial Arts, (MMA)  With no commissioner in the sport to regulate things and help to establish health plans etc.,  it’s guys like Oscar De La Hoya that give the sport a hope for the future. 

I for one appreciate that.