Greg Trooper: Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali, who had become world heavyweight boxing champion on three occasions and is regarded as one of the most popular sports figures of the 20th century, died in 2016, the year that Bob Dylan won the nobel prize for literature.

As a young boxer, Ali used to draw media attention by trash-talking and rhyming, predicting the round he would knock his opponent out. After winning his first world championship against Sonny Liston, he shouted through the ring: “I am the greatest!” An ever bolder statement was:

I’m not the greatest; I’m the double greatest.
Not only do I knock ’em out, I pick the round.

Muhammad Ali Explaining the Meaning of Christmas

All of this does not exactly hint at a spiritually-oriented person. So how did singer-songwriter Greg Trooper (1956 – 2017) get the idea of writing a song in which Muhammad Ali explained to him the meaning of Christmas?

Muhammad Ali and the Vietnam War

In 1967, Ali lost his world champion title because he refused military service during the Vietnam War. Subsequently, he was banned from boxing until 1970. His statement sounds very contemporary today in the context of George Floyd‘s death:

Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end.


The Spiritual Side of Muhammad Ali

In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This was his view of this challenge:

Maybe my Parkinson’s is God’s way of reminding me what is important. It slowed me down and caused me to listen rather than talk. Actually, people pay more attention to me now because I don’t talk as much.

Source: SkyNews on Twitter

God gave me Parkinson’s syndrome to show me I’m not the ‘The Greatest’ – he is.


Ali’s public presence in spite of clearly being inhibited by the disease inspired many people who suffered the same to accept their situation and not despair. When asked why he was being loved all over the world, Ali once raised his trembling hand, spread his fingers and said,

It’s because of this. I’m more human now.
It’s the God in people that connects me to them.


After his career, Ali was strongly committed to humanitarian issues. He visited Saddam Hussein to negotiate the release of American hostages, travelled to Sudan to raise awareness about famine, campaigned to aid refugees afflicted by Rwandan genocide, and went to Afghanistan as “U.N. Messenger of Peace”. The non-profit Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, opened in 2005, extends beyond commemorating Ali’s life, being dedicated to six core principles: confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect, and spirituality.

Some more spiritual quotes:

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.


We have one life; it soon will be past;
what we do for God is all that will last.


We all have the same God, we just serve him differently. Rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, oceans all have different names, but they all contain water. So do religions have different names, and they all contain truth, expressed in different ways, forms, and times. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Muslim, a Christian, or a Jew. When you believe in God, you should believe that all people are part of one family. If you love God, you can’t love only some of his children.


I would have loved to learn more about how Ali interpreted Christmas …

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