The Namibian sporting fraternity – and boxing in particular – woke up on Saturday to the sad and shocking news of the untimely departure of the greatest sports personality of our time, the fighter named Muhammad Ali, formerly known as Cassius Clay.
New Era Sport – as a national sport news carrier – must take a moment to reflect on the life of this global icon. The boxing icon was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and died of septic shock on Friday after several days in hospital with a severe respiratory illness.
Many Namibians were inspired by the exploits of Ali during the height of apartheid and not only did he instill confidence in hearts of marginalised black people, he freed many from mental slavery with his outspokenness on discriminatory laws. Ali was the mirror of the suffering black folk in their fight for equal rights and encouraged them to stand up and be counted.
His battering of white opponents in the boxing ring gifted black people the proof and confidence that they were good enough to compete and match whites on any terrain. Ali was the epitome of black resistance against injustice and discrimination.
Namibian boxing supremo Kelly Ngixulifwa says he does not have much to say about the man. “Muhammad Ali has transcended boxing beyond the ring and revolutionised it, for which he will always be remembered. Above all he was a good ambassador for boxing. He has done more for boxing than what the whole world could do.”
Stan Christodolou: “My family and I are mourning the greatest champion whom I first met in 1976. Our prayers are with his family during these sad days. I have a lifetime of memories to cherish the good times we spent together, especially when he regained the heavyweight world title for the third time in New Orleans, where I refereed a world title bout on the same bill.”
Nestor Tobias: “It’s indeed a very sad day for sports and for boxing in particular, but we must at the same time celebrate his life and legacy since he gave us more than what we could bargain for. He was the greatest athlete of all time, because he fought tirelessly for the rights of black people and women.
“Ali was my hero and I had the distinct honour to meet him in person in Johannesburg and Cairo, respectively. The brother was bigger than sports and his departure has now created an appropriate platform for the world’s sports icons to market themselves.”
One of Namibia’s most recognizable former boxers, Simeon Mbuerendende Tjipura, aka ‘Kid Cassius’, also joined the chorus of local sports personalities in pouring out tributes for the fallen sporting hero.
“I’m shocked and devastated, to say the least, but for all I know boxing became static when he retired and will never be the same again, because even when he was no longer active in the ring, his mere presence remained an encouragement for many would-be-boxers. Ali was an inspiration to many of us, not only as boxers, but provided the desired awareness amongst blacks to value themselves, as confirmed citizens on equal footing with anybody. May his soul rest in peace.”
Slow Murorua: “Obviously we mourn the tragic death of this global icon, although we remain inspired by his valuable contribution towards humanity and his multiple achievements, not only in the boxing ring, but for his battles against what he stood for. Basically, his death leaves us all with the challenge to take home his ideologies.”
Former Namibian boxing icon Joseph ‘Joe Archer’ Shikongo also expressed his condolences for Ali. “May his soul rest in peace. He was a global icon, who inspired all of us.”
Ali’s burial will be held on Friday in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, to be preceded by a public procession. We salute this great son of the soil. May his soul rest in eternal peace.