From the time I was an adolescent, I had this black and white postcard gladly tacked to a bulletin board in every place I ever lived. I very clearly remember that the first time I ever saw this now-iconic 1965 Neil Leifer photograph of an enraged Muhammad Ali (still known then as Cassius Clay) standing over a stunned Sonny Liston — screaming at Liston to get back up and fight him — I gasped out loud at the righteousness of it.
The audacity of it.
The generosity of it.
The beauty of it.
The entirety of the fight for life that we ALL fight is contained in just this one photograph.
Even now, just looking at it causes a profoundly visceral reaction in me. It took my breath away all those many years ago, and it takes my breath away still. I knew even back then — as a little girl who didn’t even really understand what boxing was — that captured within this photograph was an essence, a belief, an idea, that I had already carried within me and called upon, even at age 10. An image that would save my life over and over and over again when I found myself in peril or despair:
Muhammad Ali standing over me, shouting…demanding that I reach down deep into who I was and, even more importantly, who I wanted to be…and STAND THE FUCK BACK UP…AND FIGHT.
One of the most courageous, influential, principled, powerful, astonishing, inspiring, entertaining, maddening, magical human beings of our time passes tonight into history. He was a GOD walking the earth and his like shall surely not ever pass this way again. How could it?
He was The Greatest.
And, I adored him.
Requiescat in Pace, Muhammad Ali.