Tag Archive for Muhammad Ali

A poem for London 2012: “Heavyweight”

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,

Outclass it;

But not outlast it.

The Independent: Muhammad Ali goes beyond sport

He gave everything.

Watching Muhammad Ali shuffle onto the stage, aided by two loving helpers, it was hard to think anything else. This man gave everything.

Last night, Ali was in London with his wife Lonnie for a summit run by Beyond Sport, an organisation which supports the use of sport to promote positive social change. Though Beyond Sport have worked with no shortage of sporting icons -Michael Johnson, the quadruple Olympic champion, is a close associate of theirs – Ali’s appearance was something else altogether. If anyone embodies what it means to push oneself beyond sport’s boundaries to make the world somehow better, then it is the legendary American boxer.

Watching him enter that auditorium, I was reminded of a moment from a film that I’d seen recently: from Gladiator, where a world-weary Russell Crowe takes to the Coliseum’s sands, to greet his adoring hordes.  Like Maximus, Crowe’s character in that film, Ali knows too well the odd loneliness of being an outcast among those who would place you on the most glorious of pedestals.  It was ironic that Ali, who in many hearts best represents the ideals of the Olympics, once rejected the spoils of the Games in the most visceral way. Having won a gold medal in 1960, he ended up tossing it into the Ohio River, disgusted that he could be accepted by the world as a sporting champion but rejected by his own country as a man.

Joining Ali on stage that evening, to help him give the Generation Ali award to Matiullah Haidar, a young person judged to have lived the most inspiring of lives, was David Beckham.  There can be few times when the footballer can have been visibly in awe of someone else: then again, there are few people like Ali, to whom the wholly natural response each time that they enter a room is a prolonged and raucous standing ovation.

It has been quite a summer for superhero movies, with The Dark Knight Rises emerging, in many eyes, as the pick of the bunch.  It was fitting, then, to see Ali step forward, a man who has been living a superhero movie since he was born in 1942.  In honour of those battles that he has won on behalf of untold millions, it seems only right that every moment of his life should feel like a victory lap.  And so that’s why, when he walked into that packed and rapturous hall, we rose, roared, and clapped till our palms were sore.