Since the Olympic Games have come to London, here’s “Heavyweight”, a poem I wrote, set to the music of DJ Sid Mercutio, about London taking on Muhammad Ali in his prime. You can listen to the track by clicking here.
You can also read it below. Hope you like it, if so please share; and thanks for visiting this page.
Here’s a question. Who’s the greatest
Fighter of all time? The latest
Theory is that it’s that man
Who didn’t fight in Vietnam
Since blacks had been done no evil
By those he called yellow people:
That same man who, far from humble,
Fought that Rumble in that Jungle;
Who said he danced like butterfly,
Whose health has now been scuppered by
The harsh onset of that disease
That makes him shake like trees in breeze…
Some say Ali is the finest:
Some say his appeal is timeless –
But, if you ask my opinion
Then The Greatest is in England.
Who’s that, you might ask? Wait, listen:
This fighter treats opposition
With indifference, disdain.
Well, who’s this fighter? What’s his name?
You’ll ask again. I’ll say: Calm down.
This fighter’s no man. It’s a town.
A town? you say, somewhat intrigued.
Please. How is a town in the league
Of the great Muhammad Ali,
That man who defied his Army,
Who, filled with pride, blessed with special
Skills told black folk not to settle
For the third best, or the second.
What.s this town? What do you reckon?
Take a guess. If your assumption
Is that I refer to London
Then you’re right. This town’s a fighter:
It’s faced foes cunning as vipers,
It’s faced sly and swift invasion,
Embraced hasty immigration.
And it has retained its status
As The Greatest. See, this city’s
Fought them all: it’s fought the sniffy,
Snobbish, and obsessive souls
Each one of whom, nightly, patrols
The King’s Road in a Merc or Rolls –
The fruits of their financial goals:
It’s fought the rudeboys on that bus
Through Brixton, fought their every cuss,
It’s fought punks and Goths in Camden,
Skinheads chanting national anthem:
And the reason that it’s fought them
Is that London will support them
All. It will support the Muslim
And those who would wish to push him
Down: it will support the Jew,
The Christian; in short, all of you
But London will defend its sense
Of self at anyone’s expense.
Veteran of thousand summers
This town’s ground down all newcomers…
See the victories it’s scored
See all the hits that it’s absorbed:
It’s seen off the Blitz, the Romans,
Irish terrorists’ explosions:
And, more recently, it’s seen off
Bombers who blew their heads clean off:
Sure, they rattled it a little,
But to fell it like a skittle
Takes a little more than violence:
To intimidate this island’s
Capital takes something greater
Than those who might smite skyscrapers:
Takes more than that thick, unhealthy
Smog in slow flow over Chelsea:
Takes more than that endless cycle
Of commuters: snarling, spiteful,
Stuck on the M25
To tear apart London’s insides…
It’s a complex city, London,
With more layers than an onion,
Layers made of blacks, Jews, Turks,
White bankers high off City’s perks
Who snorted coke and swapped high fives;
Top football players and their wives;
Stars of the big screen with their chic
Apartments; here and there, a Greek,
A Russian, strolling through its parks,
Who with his fellow oligarchs
Has date-raped his state and escaped…
But this city still can’t be shaped
By those who’d see it gentrified,
Who’d love it if it gently died…
It’s a fearsome adversary
That, for years, has had to carry
All this weight: though millions
Have fought it, its resilience
Somehow remains. If that strength stems
From calm and cold blood of the River Thames
I just don’t know. I just know this:
That London will one day dismiss
Us as it has dismissed all those
Who’ve tried to dress it in their clothes.
That.s why, if you staged a fight
Between Muhammad Ali, right
At top of his game, in his prime,
And London, this home town of mine
I’d bet a few dimes he could blast it,
But not outlast it.