His long shadow over state of boxing
THE death of Muhammad Ali was a sharp reminder of a glittering era of heavyweight boxing that contrasts starkly with the anaemic state of the sport's marquee division today.
Ali, who died of septic shock on Friday at the age of 74 after decades of battling Parkinson's disease, was the cornerstone of a heavyweight triumvirate that also included Joe Frazier and George Foreman, whose flair and ferocity kept boxing at the forefront of the cultural conversation.
And, amid the the social turmoil of their age, they made the heavyweight world crown relevant worldwide.
Even the names of the bouts still resonate: Ali-Frazier 1, known as "The Fight of the Century", pitted the two undefeated heavyweight champions in famed Madison Square Garden with, seemingly, the whole world watching and taking sides.
Frazier absorbed tremendous punishment but relentlessly out-worked Ali and dropped him in the 15th round to win by unanimous decision and launch an epic trilogy capped by the "Thrilla in Manila".
In recent years, it has been left to the little guys to add lustre to the sport.
Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao can lay claim to boxing's most recent "Fight of the Century". But their 2015 bout in Las Vegas failed to pack the visceral punch fans expected from two fighters long considered the best pound-for-pound performers of their generation.
The Hollywood celebrities and sports stars jetted in, but left unsatisfied.
"We waited five years for that... #underwhelmed," Mike Tyson tweeted, after a fight that will go down in history not for what happened inside the ropes but for the colossal amount of cash it generated.
Angelo Dundee, who trained Ali for two decades, noted that "Muhammad ruined us for everybody".
"He was great outside (the ring); he was great inside," Dundee said before his death in 2012.
"We got so accustomed to it, we thought we deserved it." AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE