The Day Muhammad Ali Spoke Out Against War: “I Have Nothing Against Them” | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The Day Muhammad Ali Spoke Out Against War: “I Have Nothing Against Them”

Masashi Hosoda's Entertainment Space-Time Detective 10

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I have nothing against him.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had a serious impact on the sports world. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has decided not to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete at the Beijing Winter Games, which opened on April 4.

The reaction from the boxing world, which has produced many athletes from both countries, is even starker. The World Boxing Association (WBA), the world’s largest boxing organization, unanimously decided to exclude Russian and Belarusian fighters from its next ranking list at its board meeting on March 28.

Needless to say, this makes it impossible for world title fights to be held in Russia at this time, but what was surprising was the WBA’s decision to exclude all boxers who support the invasion of Ukraine from the rankings.

This decision by the WBA is a world away. Fifty-five years ago, under different circumstances and under different circumstances, the WBA had taken the exact opposite action against one boxer. The justice that the boxer had appealed for was considered unfruitful, and the He was almost obliterated by society. If there had been social networking sites in this era, peace that he had been seeking was criticized, slandered, and ridiculed as a “theory on the table. In fact, he even lost his place to fight. He was almost obliterated by society. he would have been burned.

His name is Muhammad Ali.

Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) refused to fight in Vietnam.

He is arguably the greatest superstar of the 20th century in the world of professional sports, not to mention the world of boxing.

The US military intervention in Indochina had been ongoing since the 1960s, but the Gulf of Tonkin Incident on August 2, 1964, triggered a full-scale war. The Gulf of Tonkin incident on August 2, 1964, led to a full-scale war : the Vietnam War. Ali immediately reacted differently to the war, which at first many Americans supported and even saw as a good cause. He complained of racial discrimination associated with the draft and objected to the war itself. Of course, there were also religious reasons. However, there is a famous quote that illustrates all the ideas he held.

I have nothing against the Viet Cong.

What did Ali want to appeal to at this time? How did American society respond? What was Ali’s battle? I would like to reiterate here what Ali’s fight was about.

The Phantom Plan for a Defense Battle in Tokyo

If one were to talk about “Muhammad Ali and the Vietnam War,” it would be impossible to leave out two things: “draft refusal” and “black moslems. Of course, without discussing these issues, it is impossible to get a clear picture The first is a plan for a defense fight in Tokyo. of the whole picture, but there are some circumstances at the root of the problem that are not well known.

On March 23, Akira Kami, president of the Art Life Association, which is planning to hold a title match in Japan against the world heavyweight boxing champion Cassius Clay of the United States, said that as a result of discussions with Clay’s manager, Herbert Muhammed , he and Clay had reached an agreement that the title would be held in Tokyo, but that the title would not be held in Japan. We have basically reached a point of understanding regarding the match. (We have reached a basic understanding on the match . , “he said .

During his lifetime, Muhammad Ali fought twice in Tokyo. The first was on April 1, 1972. He fought Mack Foster in a 15-round non-title bout (Ali won by decision) at the Nippon Budokan. The second match was on June 26, 1976. He fought pro wrestler Antonio Inoki to a draw in a special-rule 15-round bout at the Nippon Budokan that was billed as the “World’s Greatest Fighting Match. A phantom match had been planned before those two fights.

The man who planned the event, Akira Kami, is a promoter known as “the original caller,” and he had invited the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra and Bolshoi Circus from the former Soviet Union before the restoration of diplomatic relations, as well as the world- class car race “Indianapolis 5000 Mile Race” at Fuji Speedway in the previous year. He has achieved a number of accomplishments. He is also known as the ex-husband of writer Sawako Ariyoshi.

Ali himself said, “I really want to go to Japan. I have chosen Oscar Bonavena (Argentina) as my opponent, but I am sure I will win by KO” (Yomiuri Shimbun, March 19, 1967), showing his positive attitude toward a defense in Tokyo.

The bottleneck was that the JBC (Japan Boxing Commission) had clauses in its rules that “no person without a boxing promoter’s license is allowed to hold a boxing event” and “no title fights between foreigners,” but the author speculates that it probably would The former clause would not be a problem if an existing boxing promoter is nominally appointed as the organizer, and the latter clause is just unprecedented, but it is unavoidable in view of the many “supremacy of approval” that the JBC has adopted since then.

It is probably safe to assume that the “World Heavyweight Title Muhammad Ali vs. Oscar Bonavena” match would have been held at the Nippon Budokan on May 27, 1967, as announced, if nothing had happened to the event.

However, things took an unexpected turn. The draft board in Ali’s hometown of Ruysville, Kentucky, ordered him to report for military service.

Let me fight.

Ali objected to this through his attorney, saying, “There is racial discrimination in the selection of the draft board, and it is unequal that there are no blacks on the board” (March 17, 1967, Yomiuri Shimbun). He further stated.

There are plenty of people who have passed the A-1 exam, but it is because of racial prejudice that they are holding on to me. In war, there are tanks and jets. It would be better for the government to let me fight and take a lot of tax money.

In response, the Yomiuri Shimbun also expressed a hopeful view, saying, “Since the trial will take a year, it is expected that there will be no obstacle to the Japanese games.

On March 22, he fought Zora Foley (USA) in front of 10,000 spectators at New York’s Madison Square Garden, winning by KO in 7R1: 48 for his 29th consecutive victory and 9th defense. At the post-fight press conference, he publicly stated that “Next time, it will be in Tokyo. At this point, Ali himself seemed optimistic about the draft refusal issue.

However, the situation deteriorated further.

Immediately after the defense against Foley, Ali’s manager Herbert Muhammed announced that the next defense would be in Tokyo, but added, “The draft problem is the biggest obstacle” (Yomiuri Shimbun, March 25, 1967). I have been asked to cooperate in keeping an eye on the situation until the next day “(Yomiuri Shimbun, March 28, 1967).

Ali himself requested the Lewisville draft board to transfer jurisdiction to the Houston, Texas, draft board, where he currently resides, although his place of birth is Lewisville. It appears that he was trying to buy time, but perhaps reading his intentions, the Lewisville side readily approved the transfer.

At the same time, the American daily newspaper, the World Journal Tribune (now defunct), reported in an article dated May 25, “The title fight between world heavyweight boxing champion Cassius Clay and world No. 6 Oscar Bonavena, which was to be held in Tokyo on May 27, has been canceled. (March 26, 1967 / Yomiuri Shimbun).

The situation caused by the draft issue was more serious than the Japanese thought. It involved an age-old problem of racism, and the enemy was not only the military authorities or the federal courts. The enemy was not only the military authorities and the federal courts, but also the entire white community in the US

Why, then, did the US military draft board insist on drafting ants? Did they really want to send him to the battlefield to fight with Vietnamese soldiers? Of course not. They wanted to increase the number of volunteers by enlisting Ali, who was both popular and well-known.

Ali was extremely popular at the time (AFLO)

The US military was suffering from a shortage of troops at this time, and although it had sent 180,000 ground troops in 1965, it needed to replenish its forces quickly and urgently as the frontline expanded and became bogged down. allied forces, led by the South Korean army, entered the war.

So this is what the draft board was trying to say.

Cassius, we would never do anything foolish like sending you into battle. You can make a lot of money boxing as you have always done. Just say’I’m enlisting’ for the sake of formality. I want you to pledge allegiance to your country. That’s all I ask. “

Still, Muhammad Ali’s attitude remained the same: He held a press conference on April 19 and said, “Even if I am drafted on April 28, I refuse to take the oath of enlistment. I don’t care if I am imprisoned for five years or more as a result of refusing to take the oath “( April 21, 1967, Yomiuri Shimbun).

Ali’s response drew criticism from the black community. One of the leading figures was Jackie Robinson, the first black major leaguer and a man of character. Robinson, who had contributed to the improvement of the status of blacks in American society during this period, criticized Ali’s draft refusal as follows.

And now he refuses to show gratitude to the country for giving him this opportunity, which, in my view, is wonderful “( June 11, 2016 / The Huffington Post / Justin Block).

For Robinson, who is a registered Republican and has worked to improve the status of blacks, even to the point of making a speech in support of Nixon in the presidential election, Ali’s actions were completely in comprehensible.

And then what he feared most happened.

Social obliteration.

Evans, president of the World Boxing Association (WBA), said in his office on April 28, “All boxing licenses of Cassius Clay are revoked and he will be stripped of his world heavyweight title. The new champion will be decided immediately by a fight between qualified title challengers. (Note: Both the World Boxing Federation (WBC) and the European Boxing Union (EBU) are in agreement with the WBA) (Yomiuri Shimbun, April 29, 1967).

The WBA announced that in 2022, the year of the invasion of Ukraine, it would “exclude from its rankings all boxers who support the Russian invasion,” but 55 years ago, when the US invaded Vietnam, it had made the exact opposite statement. In fact, ten days later, the WBA announced a tournament to determine the vacant world heavyweight title, the competitors, and a four-fight fight card. In my experience as a martial arts promoter, it is hard to believe that the matchmaking process could In other words, it is highly possible that Ali had decided to take away the title and hold the tournament at the stage when he was struggling with the draft issue.

Thus, Muhammad Ali was marginalized and viewed as an enemy not only by the military and judiciary, but also by the black community and the boxing world. No one could have been more lonely than Ali during this period.

After being released on $ 5,000 bail, Ali immediately filed an appeal, which was soon rejected. These are crazy times.

Everyone thought it was only a matter of time before Ali was socially ostracized.

But the world did not abandon the ants. There were many people who had doubts about the Vietnam War, just not on the surface. When activists who had never paid any attention to “professional boxer Cassius Clay” began asking “Muhammad Ali Against the War “to participate in anti-war rallies, Ali began to take the initiative and show up. And this is what he appealed to them.

But the purpose of war is to kill people all over the place.

No matter how spectacular a match or performance you put on in the ring, it is never about taking the life of your opponent (AFLO)

Gradually, Ali’s arguments become accepted by society. As if riding the wave of the times, he showed up at any small gathering. When he repeated his appeal for peace, the audience responded with thunderous applause. The number of rallies increased one after another. When images of US troops repeatedly bombing Vietnam were broadcast, the anti-war voices that surged through the air like a swell pushed Ali to the forefront.

Like Ali, rock musician John Lennon had long been skeptical of the Vietnam War, and when he remarried avant-garde artist Yoko Ono in March 1969, he spent their honeymoon period in the anti-war movement. at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam to appeal to the entire world against the Vietnam War, and the Moratorium March on Washington brought together 500,000 anti-war supporters led by John and Yoko. Society had finally caught up with Ali.

And finally the judiciary turned over as well.

On April 14, the US District Court in New York ruled that the New York State Athletic Commission erred in taking away the license of former world heavyweight champion Cassius Clay.

In his ruling, Judge Walter R. Mansfield stated that the commission’s action in removing Clay’s license because of his refusal to serve in the military was arbitrary and unfounded, and also departed from the practice of issuing licenses to criminals and violators of military discipline who applied for them.》 (September 16, 1970 / Yomiuri Shimbun)

During the three years and seven months that Ali was away from the ring, he lost an enormous amount. His footwork, which was said to “dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee,” was never seen again, and it became impossible to He had no choice but to adopt a “cut the flesh to cut the bones” strategy, in which he would strike back when his opponent was exhausted by being hit by his own body. Naturally, the damage accumulated The Parkinson’s disease that afflicted him later in his career was no doubt brought on by his strategy in the latter half of his career.

Still, he gained something irreplaceable. He had freedom and peace.

At the moment he obtained them, Muhammad Ali may have become a superstar in the truest sense of the word.

  • Text Masashi Hosoda

    Nonfiction writer

  • Photo. Afro

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