Float like a Butterfly, Sting like a Bee

On Twitter yesterday Luke Walter linked to this video of Muhammad Ali fighting Cleveland Williams at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas on November 14, 1966. It’s a remarkable, high quality display of just how accurate his declaration that he can “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” truly was. The Greatest, indeed.

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2 Responses to Float like a Butterfly, Sting like a Bee

  1. Brian says:

    Nobody asked me, but Ali is my pick for greatest athlete of my lifetime — if judged by skill, performance, charisma and social impact… If you factor those last two in I don’t know if we can even have a debate.

    Finally got to see the video, and it was a treat…

    Thanks for linking to the Cleveland Williams Wiki bio. Apparently he is regarded as “one of the finest boxers never to win a title” and in 2003 “ranked 49th in Ring Magazine’s list of 100 greatest punchers of all time”. But the year before this fight he had been “…shot for no apparent reason” with a .357 Magnum by a cop at a traffic stop, and nearly died. So he was in “greatly diminished physical condition” against Ali.

    Interesting as well that the commentators refer to Ali throughout the fight as “Clay” — refusing to acknowledge his name change from two years earlier. (Ask Ernie Terrell if that slight actually bothered Ali.) Hadn’t quite grokked that the WBA stripped him of one of his titles at that point in 1964 simply because he had joined the Nation of Islam (I had attributed his battles with the boxing authorities over the military objector thing three years later).

  2. Reverend says:

    What a comment, I hadn’t read the Cleveland Williams’ Wikipedia article (I just have an incurable habit of linking everything to Wikipedia now) and you just made the compelling argument of just how radical Ali was for just his social impact and ability to stand up to an entire nation—even if it meant other boxers sniping with the Clay comment. That said, the fact that Williams was shot in the stomach for no apparent reason by a cop is certainly context to this video I wasn’t factoring into Ali’s greatness.

    I would have to agree with you though, Ali was the greatest—his impact during the 1960s and 70s on the ground makes a truly impressive figure against the famous line by Jordan in the 1980s in regards to his lack of any politic: “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” Nation of what? Ali was kicking ass on many levels.

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