Mohammad Ali's Losing Fight Helped Me Win

It would be an understatement to say my father (like many black men of his generation) was a devout fan of Mohammad Ali. I recalled growing up and watching a boxing series called "Big Fights of the Decade" on Saturday evenings. Most of the fights featured Ali, were dutifully recorded on VHS by my dad and he watched and relived those moments over and over again. I grew up knowing Mohammad Ali as a hero and sometimes I felt like in his own way, my daddy was a fuzzy mirror image of Mohammad Ali.

In his prime, Mohammad Ali was a prime example of athleticism as evidenced by all his boxing accolades. My father, as a high school senior was a prime track and field star and ended up representing Nigeria at the first All African Games in Congo-Brazzaville.

Like Mohammad Ali, my father had a quick mind and a witty repertoire that made verbal sparring with him a losing battle.

And like Mohammad Ali, my father endured with dignity, the ravages of a disease that robs you of the very things that you are proudest of - your physical strength and ability to express your mental  dexterity.

As I watched my father fade physically, I would lie awake at night wishing, praying, begging and pleading for that magic pill. I would wish that I had somehow worked harder and had more financial resources. Then I would be able to buy my father a physical therapist with more letters behind his name. Buy him better drugs. Buy him comfort. Buy him health. Buy him youth. If only I had enough money to buy my father these things. 

Foolish thoughts I knew; but I could not win the battle to banish such futile thoughts from my head. Until I thought of Mohammad Ali. He had the money to buy everything that I couldn't buy for my father but obviously money was not what was needed to win this fight against old age and disease. Because if it was, Mohammad Ali would have won this fight and he didn't. Watching Mohammad Ali losing his fight against his disease helped me win my battle against filial guilt that I had somehow failed my father by not having enough resources to insulate him from the ravages of old age and illness.

Rest in Power Mohammad Ali and thank you for all the fights you won and lost. 


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