Advertisement: IBO Boxing

Muhammad Ali and The Coronavirus


Someone asked me recently what I thought Muhammad Ali would make of the burgeoning coronavirus crisis.

Let's start by noting what Ali was not. He was a not a doctor. He was not a scientist. He was not socio-economic planner. He was not always a practical rational thinker. But the world could use his voice today.

Ali in the 1960s was a divisive figure. But he inspired people in need of inspiration and gave people hope. He projected as being fearless. He wasn't. Sonny Liston scared him. The assassination of Malcolm X weighed heavily upon him. But he was willing to take risks and journey into the unknown. In later years, he became a symbol of people coming together and a unifying force.

Now, as was the case in the 1960s, there's a sense that the world is falling apart. What would Ali do today?

He didn't always take advice from the government. That's for sure. And some common-sense directives would be hard for him to follow. Muhammad loved crowds, the bigger the better. He loved being surrounded by people. Social distancing would have been contrary to his nature.

His first reaction to the current coronavirus crisis would probably be to urge people to trust in God. But Ali understood that faith alone can take a person just so far; that not all prayers are answered; that prayer should be supplemented by practical acts (such as training hard for a fight - or taking proper medical precautions).


On a more whimsical note, one can imagine the poet in Ali proclaiming:

"There will be an end to the crisis
When I beat the coronavirus"

I mentioned that to Jim Lampley earlier this week, and he improved on my offering with the lines:

"It might take our jobs and fire us
But we will whup the coronavirus"

In search of yet another opinion, I turned to George Foreman.

There was a time when Foreman modeled himself after Sonny Liston. But he has evolved since then and is now a warm, almost spiritual presence. George is as qualified as anyone to speak for Ali.

"Ali would have a public service message today," George told me. "He'd be telling everyone, 'Get your soap out, wash your hands, and sing along with me.'"

And how would that song go?

It would be called The Hand-Washing Song, George suggested. And it would go something like:

"When I was floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee,
Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman,
They all tried but couldn’t put a hand on me, so their hands were clean
In twenty seconds, your hands can be clean too."  

There are times when I think that George is a genius.

We know what Ali wouldn't do today. He wouldn't blame the current crisis on the Chinese people. He wouldn't be more troubled by the stock market going down than by people dying. He would be one of many voices urging compassion.

He would be an inspiration. But he would be quick to remind us that, in this time of crisis, we should look to the front lines for inspiration. To hospital workers and their counterparts in other essential professions who are risking their lives every day to safeguard us. And he would be wise enough to tell us that we should look to health care professionals like Dr. Anthony Fauci (director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) for guidance.

I've written many times that Muhammad Ali in the 1960s stood as a beacon of hope for oppressed people all over the world. Every time he looked in the mirror and uttered the phrase, "I'm so pretty," he was saying "black is beautiful" before it became fashionable. When he refused induction into the United States Army, he stood up to armies everywhere in support of the proposition that, unless you have a very good reason for killing people, war is wrong. But in his later years, there was an even more important component of Ali’s legacy. He shortened the distance between people. He became the embodiment of love.

Now more than ever, the world needs Ali's message. It's an uplifting counterpoint to the ugliness and fear that pollute our surroundings today. In his absence, let's all reach down for the goodness within ourselves, be kind to each other, and be a bit more like the best of Ali.

Thomas Hauser's email address is [email protected]. His most recent book – A Dangerous Journey: Another Year Inside Boxing  – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. On June 14, 2020, he will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

User Comments and Feedback
Comment by FRANKIE420247 on 03-23-2020

Ali was also a mason dont forget to mention that.

Comment by lowblows420 on 03-23-2020

A bit delusional

Comment by Monty Fisto on 03-22-2020

[QUOTE=Boxingfanatic75;20476037] Was Ali a top scientist? Was he a doctor? [/QUOTE] Isn't this already covered in the second paragraph of the article? I think the point is: he was someone that people listened to. And we need someone with leadership,…

Comment by Boxingfanatic75 on 03-22-2020

[QUOTE=t_theboxer;20475629]Look around. There is no boxing going on it’s all cancelled. That’s why these articles are happening. Their is no boxing to go back to.[/QUOTE] There’s plenty to write about however they chose the musings of a boxer that’s been…

Comment by mabulkhair on 03-22-2020

I've read several books on Muhammad Ali and watched countless documentaries about his personal and professional life. Ali was more than just the greatest boxer to ever lace them up, he was a role model to his community and to…

Top Headlines
Joshua Gives Boost To Jos Buttler's Campaign To Battle Coronavirus Muhammad Ali, Ted Williams, and Time Lost Joshua Backs Mike Tyson To Beat Muhammad Ali, Explains Why Jeff Horn Prefers Large Crowd Over Closed Doors For Tszyu Bout Amir Khan Explains Wild Conspiracy Theory Linking Coronavirus With 5G Rollout Tiger King Mike Tyson Regrets Owning Big Cats: I Was Doing The Wrong Sh-t WBSS Fantasy Tournament: Winky Wright Stops Carlos Monzon in Eight Mayweather's Daughter Arrested For Felony Aggravated Assault Callum Smith: We Were Never Going To Get The Canelo Fight Fernando Vargas: Canelo Already One of The All-Time Mexican Greats Jacobs: Gabe Rosado Is Envious; Being Gatekeeper Doesn't Sit Well With Him Salita: Braekhus 'Definitely Not Interested' In Fighting Claressa Shields Vergil Ortiz: I Want To Beat Errol Spence In His Prime By 2022 Ryan Garcia: Beating Gervonta Davis Will Turn Me Into Muhammad Ali Daily Bread Mailbag: Charlo Brothers, Mayweather, Trainers, More Otto Wallin Training Twice a Day To Stay in Shape News: Jordan White, Hassan Azim, MTK Global Inks Deal Whyte Open To UFC Bout: I'd Kick Miocic in The Face, KO Ngannou! Eubank Jr: Me vs. Canelo is Exciting, Canelo-Saunders is Boring 'A Good Life' – Hedgemon Lewis Shannon Briggs Motivated, Will Move Forward With Bare Knuckle Fights Chiquita Gonzalez Eager To Do Exhibition Bout To Help His Area Fury's Coach Confident The 'Kronk Style' Would Take Down Joshua Team Estrada: Chocolatito Rematch Deal Can Be Made in 5 Minutes Yarde Suffers Further Tragedy, Loses Grandmother To Coronavirus Munguia Was Training For Islam, In No Rush For Canelo or Golovkin Hearn Hopes Joshua-Pulev Can 'Take Place At The End Of The Summer' WBSS Fantasy Tournament: Sugar Ray Robinson Blasts Jake LaMotta in Seven Dillian Whyte's WBC Title Shot Will Not Be Delayed, Says Hearn Amir Khan Clarifies Retirement Talk, Tells Hearn 'I'm Not Done Yet' Anthony Joshua vs. Kubrat Pulev is Officially Postponed Arum: Boxers Get Purses That Are Much, Much Higher Than UFC Guys Joshua Frankham, Fury's Cousin, Inks Pact With Frank Warren Devin Haney: Saunders Will Give Canelo a Run For His Money Ryan Garcia: I'm Going To Get Disrespectful With Gervonta Davis Bob Arum: Brook Won't Quit Against Crawford The Way Khan Quit Warrington: I See Many Things To Expose With Gary Russell; He's There For The Taking McCracken Discusses Anthony Joshua's "Unlikely" Return in June, July Henry Tillman Reflects on Amateur Days, Fighting Mike Tyson Hearn Hopes For Events Behind Closed Doors or Small-Hall Shows in June
Latest Forum Threads