TUBES of flesh wrapped the old man’s stomach as he sat on his stool and waited for the bell. Dark rings gathered on his face, threatening to take the life from his eyes. Muhammad Ali’s final appearance as a prizefighter in December 1981 was a sad parody of what had come before. For the first time in his 39 years he knew he could not compete.
“I just couldn’t do what I wanted to,” he whispered when it was all over. His speech was slurred, the early effects of neurological deterioration stealing the edge from his words.
Ali’s career, the most hypnotic advertisement for the noble art, came with a price. But such astronomic levels of greatness always do.