We don’t cover sports often on The Grid Daily but sometimes there are athletes who are so much more than competitors of their sport that they shatter into other universes. Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) is world known as the greatest boxer of all time. With a record of 56-5 including 37 KOs, Ali won nearly 92% of his fights. That number climbs even higher if you take out his final four fights. That’s right, in his first 57 fights, he lost twice. Twice. And one was to Joe Frazier, known as “The Fight of the Century”. Ali would go on to beat Frazier two more times.
Ali was fast, not just in his incredible “float like a butterfly” sense but also in his thinking, quickly calculating where to “sting like a bee”. His fighting style, personality, and confidence made up just some of the aspects that the world loved or loved to hate about him.
In 1978, toward the end of his historic career, DC Comics published Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, written by Neil Adams and Dennis O’Neil. It wasn’t just a simple issue either. The story counted 72 pages and included not just a fight between the Man of Steel and the Black Superman, but them teaming up to fight off an alien invasion. Now, I’m sure you’re thinking, Ali couldn’t beat Superman, right? I mean, Superman is impervious to bullets, how could a punch hurt him? Well, Ali had become much more than just a boxer. He was an icon, a symbol for many people.
Sure, he was a boxer and that’s a violent sport but he was a man of peace, advocating against war, specifically the Vietnam War. Ali was even found guilty in 1967 for refusing to step up when drafted. “The New York State Athletic Commission suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his title. Other boxing commissions followed suit. Ali would not be able to obtain a license to box in any state for over three years.” Ali’s conviction was overturned about four years later due to “the Appeal Board [giving] no reason for the denial of a conscientious object exemption to Ali”.
Ali was always a man of conviction and continued to stand up for what he believed in. This inspired many people including Martin Luther King Jr. and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
It was the Muhammad Ali symbol in the ring with the Man of Steel. It wasn’t Cassius Clay. It was the Black Superman.
How did the fight go? Ali won. It wasn’t quite that simple. The book portrays Ali as the superior boxer, which makes sense since Superman has been portrayed as a guy who just uses his strength and doesn’t usually have fight training like his peers Batman and Wonder Woman. With that context in mind, Ali was able to out maneuver Superman and Superman was able to take a lot of punishment from the Black Superman. In the end, Ali called for the fight to end. He feels that the fight is over and at this point it’s just him hitting Superman. Instead of taking the easy way out and calling a TKO for Ali, Superman ends up falling down, making it a KO for Ali. The story has a lot more to it and continues from there with the alien invasion. I encourage everyone to read the story which is available in digital form on Comixology and hardcover on Amazon.
In the end, Muhammad Ali was many things. He was a boxer, an athlete, a world champion, a religious man and inspiration, a social inspiration, a protester, a husband, and a father. He was not perfect. Nor are any of us but he was an incredibly huge part of American culture and had additional impact throughout the world. He gave voice and hope to many who found themselves unable to speak up and at the same time, he took over a sport for two solid decades.
Muhammad Ali died on June 3rd, 2016 at the age of 74. We wish his family and friends well.
RIP Black Superman.