Columnist: The greatest

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 12, 2016

I think we all have heroes that we can look up to. Some of mine are Jesus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Freud, Einstein, Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Jr.

One of my heroes died last week. In many ways he will always be the greatest.

Yes, there are many great sports figures in American history. We emulate Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Hank Aaron, Willie Mayes, Michael Jordan, Mickey Mantle, Jim Brown and Joe Montana.

However, the greatest of all the athletes is Muhammad Ali. There will never be another like him.

As a professional boxer, no one comes close to what he brought into the ring. He had unbelievable speed, size, intestinal fortitude and the will to win.

I’ll never forget the night in Miami, Florida, when he knocked out Sonny Liston. Liston was big, mean and blessed with many boxing skills.

When the fight began, it was obvious that Ali was the superior fighter. He was so fast that Liston couldn’t hit him.

Believe me, Sonny Liston wanted to destroy Ali. However, he just didn’t have the ability to box with a far superior fighter.

That first fight against Liston let people know that Ali would be a great champion. We just didn’t know he would be the greatest. After winning the heavyweight championship three times, his boxing legacy would always be secure.

Yes, I admire Ali for being the most outstanding athlete in American history. What I admire most about him, however, is that he was a devout Muslim.

Most people, to be honest, don’t really practice their religion. They talk the talk without walking the walk. Ali did both.

As I have previously written, I have great respect for Muslims. Again, most Muslims are very moral. The people in ISIS and other extremist groups are only a small minority.

Muhammad Ali was a man of love and peace. He went out of his way to treat everyone with respect and dignity. He let us know what the religion of Islam represents when it preaches the golden rule.

I was very opposed to the war in Vietnam. It was never a war about communism. Primarily it was a a civil war that the United States had no business participating in.

Ali stood against the war, and he was stripped of his heavyweight championship. He had the backbone to stand up for what was right.

One thing that had a profound effect on Ali happened when he came back from winning a gold medal at the Olympics. When he came home to Louisville, Kentucky, he experienced how racist the South was.

An American Olympic hero could not eat at most of the restaurants in Louisville simply because he was a black man. What a travesty.

The great thing was that he didn’t let the racists and segregationists destroy him. He continued to hold himself high and be a role model for everyone.

Larry Summerour

Contributing columnist

Larry Summerour of Troup County is a retired pastor who enjoys political commentary.