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Float Like a Butterfly, Fight for Justice

Float Like a Butterfly, Fight for Justice
Video Caption: 1 Diplo’s 2019 VMAs, Themed Suit

By the time I finished reading this book, I felt like I had travelled an entire summer with Ali, and gotten to understand the golden silence of the man with the golden footwork.

Do you know Michael Dokes? Or Pinklon Thomas. Or Tony Tubbs? I doubt. Do you know Muhammad Ali? Of course you do. The three guys that I mentioned before were also World Heavyweight Champions on different occasions after Muhammad Ali’s third reign ended in 1978.

Why then is it that no one remembers them yet everyone remembers Muhammad Ali? What was it about Muhammad Ali that made his transcend generations and professions? To what extent did his spirituality drive his sportsmanship? How did his flaws interact with his inimitable talent? What did Africa mean to him?

These are some of the questions ringing in my mind when I begun reading Jonathan Eig's ‘Ali: A Life.’ This book answered many of these questions in a deft, concise and clear manner. It isn't just another boxing biography. It's a meticulously researched exploration of Muhammad Ali, the man who transcended the ring to become a global icon. Eig painted a nuanced portrait that celebrated Ali's triumphs without glossing over his complexities and flaws.

From the outset, Eig grounds Ali's story in the fertile soil of Black America. We see Cassius Clay Jr., a young man navigating a segregated Louisville, Kentucky. His conversion to Islam and name change are presented not as publicity stunts, but as acts of self-determination and cultural reclamation. Eig delves into the Nation of Islam's influence on Ali's burgeoning activism, highlighting the centrality of Black pride and self-defense in his worldview.

The book shines in its unflinching portrayal of Ali's fight against the Vietnam War. Eig doesn't shy away from the controversy, the death threats, and the financial hardship Ali endured for refusing the draft. We see Ali as a courageous champion for social justice, a stance rooted in his Islamic beliefs and his identification with black Americans disproportionately targeted for the war effort.

Eig's prose is as captivating as Ali's footwork. He masterfully weaves together fight descriptions, rich historical context, and introspective character analysis. The narrative pulsates with the energy of Ali's larger-than-life personality, his charisma, and his undeniable wit. Yet, Eig doesn't shy away from Ali's flaws - his womanizing, his financial struggles, and the toll boxing took on his health.

Eig explores the impact of racism on Ali's career, the media's often patronizing portrayal, and the white backlash he faced. We see Ali as a symbol of Black resistance, a man who challenged white supremacy not just in the ring, but also in the courtrooms and on the world stage.

"Ali: A Life" is a heavyweight biography that transcends the boxing genre. It's a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the complexities of Muhammad Ali, the man who dared to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, both inside and outside the ring. This is a story that resonates deeply within the African American experience, reminding us of the ongoing fight for equality and the power of individual courage. Ali’s spirituality; his whole-hearted embrace of Islam shine all through the book. This gives it a holistic texture that is spiritually rewarding and psychologically stimulating.

By the time I finished reading the book, I felt like I had travelled an entire summer with Ali, and gotten to understand the golden silence of the man with the golden footwork.
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