"I Am THE Greatest" ÷ MUhammad ALI



Ali was the champ

Bam! Bam! Bam!

The best boxer ever
And man, could he dance.

Plus he was a joker
And he spouted poetry.
He was born Cassius Clay

But became Ali –

Muhammad Ali.
He laughed and he twirled.

He was the Bam! Bam! Bam!

Heavyweight champion
Of the world.


Now in those days

Blam! Blam! Blam!

There was a war
In Vietnam.
Blam! Blam! Blam!
It was a terrible war,
A terrible war in Vietnam.


And when they called Ali to go
He refused,
He just said, “No,

I think I’ll stay here

Where I am,
I’ve got no quarrel

With Vietnam.

Why would I kill

My fellow man?”


If you don’t fight

Blam! Blam! Blam!

You’ll go to jail

Wham! Wham! Wham!

If you don’t fight
For Uncle Sam,
We’ll lock you up
In the slam, slam, slam.

But he wouldn’t fight

Blam! Blam! Blam!

He just said no
To Uncle Sam.
“I think I’ll stay here,

Where I am,
I’ve got no quarrel

With Vietnam.
I’m a recent convert

To Islam.
Why would I kill
My fellow man?”


Ali was charged
But he wouldn’t budge.

He was put on trial

Before a judge.
The gavel came down

Wham! Wham! Wham!

Ali was free,
An innocent man,
He didn’t have to fight

In Vietnam,
He didn’t have to fight For Uncle Sam.


But he still couldn’t box

Bam! Bam! Bam!

They wouldn’t let him box

And they picked a new champ

And still there was a war

Blam! Blam! Blam!
And many people died
In Vietnam.

Ali had to wait,
This champ of the world,
Down by his sides
Those big fists curled,
Not till the war
Came at last to an end
Would they let him fight
For the prize again.
Back in the ring
How good Ali felt
When he fought George Foreman

And took back his belt.
He darted and danced,
Spoke poetry and twirled.
He was the king of not fighting

And the heavyweight champion

Of the world.


Yes, he was champ in the ring

And a champ times two –

Cause Ali was the king
Of not fighting too!


By Robert Priest from Rosa Rose and other poems,

Illustrations by Joan Krygsman



"I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was."


His greatness outshone and rose above his sport, stardom and the modern preoccupation with celebrity. A man who talked the World into believing in his talent, and proved it in his fights. Many fights, the obvious battles in the ring, to be a pacifist, to maintain his faith and keep his career, to bring peace and understanding, to do all this with debilitating health issues. The man transcended his body to offer hope when he lit the Olympic flame in Atlanta and took over news coverage, deservedly, when his death was announced.


He said "Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."


“Hating people because of their colour is wrong.

And it doesn't matter which colour does the hating.

 It's just plain wrong”


He inspired the classes who could not afford to be hippies to live by their consciences. Tony Gittens, a student leader at the time at the mainly African-American Howard University, where Ali once came to speak said: "It was amazing to see someone of his stature being ready and willing to give up everything on principle. A lot of people decided that they were going to be with him. They burned their drafts cards and they took a stand."


"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth."


In the turmoil and terror of the present era the fear of Islam is still prominent. There is a difference – Ali demonstrated the centre of faith was based on striving for peace, showing respect, growing emotionally and morally.


Often glossed over is the power of vested interests and their fear of change, an issue still very apparent today. Not well publicised is the role of the boxing fraternity’s money men and backers – their fear of a radical black Islamic Zealot – who in the vernacular of the time was filled with rage! A weird way to describe the former slave class desperately and increasingly forcefully putting forward, what should always have been a right, to be treated equally to all other people and foremost as human beings, equal in every way to other human beings.


Perhaps at his most prophetic he said “wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change”. Unlike Islamic fundamentalist groups today he promoted peace, personal development and spiritual growth seeing that "the man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life”. Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali did not waste any of his life. LW


Robert Priest, is the author of fourteen books of poetry, 3 plays, 4 novels, lots of musical CDS and one hit song. His words have been debated in the legislature [Canada], posted in the Transit system, quoted in the Farmer's Almanac, and sung on Sesame Street.  His 2008 book: Reading the Bible Backwards peaked at number two on the Globe and Mail’s poetry list. Rosa Rose, a book of children's verse, in praise of inspirational figures, won a silver moonbeam award in the US and was a book of honour in the Lion and the Unicorn prize of excellence in Children’s Literature. He also writes for adults! http://poempainter.com

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