The death of Muhammad Ali, brought back a double glove-full or memories of my own Boxing Days. When at Montfort School, Yercaud, TamilNadu, India, I was tweeny-weeny guy – one that a tiny gust of wind could easily blow-off of to the edge of the World: I decided to box myself out of my bony frame and enrolled for Boxing Coaching under our then School Instructor Tiger ‘Nat’ Terry (TNT was his Boxing Ring Name in the Madras Presidency /State days) who looked very much like Ali himself. TNT ‘had a history’ – he had come to India, from Indonesia, for Boxing-Ring Fights and during an Organised Fight challenging the then Madras State Champion (I think, a Mr. Arunachalam) he gave such a powerful & deadly uppercut that it missed his opponent’s chin and knocked-off (pulled-out, literally) his nose, leading to the Madras State Champion’s death. You know the Tamil Nadu crowd: they went berserk and hounded TNT, who took refuge in Yercaud…and ended up teaching boxing in Montfort. He boasted he could beat Muhammad Ali – if given a chance, and in fact he could hit the spring-ball with equal speed, during practice. Believe me, I had seen him do it!
Most of us kids at School landed our first punches on his ‘ample tummy’ – which he encouraged – to show of his grit in taking it all!
Under his coaching, I earned my first Ring-Fight, in the ‘Mosquito-Weight category’ in Class 10, I think, with a classmate – Ravi Gandhi – It was a 3 round fight, each lasting about a minute and the Winner was declared on points earned basis (Ali kind of Knock -outs were rare). Well, I fought damn well – but lost, and the surprise was, I was declared ‘BEST NOVICE LOSER’ and got a Cup bigger than the guy who beat me – I still have it (with a Nose very much intact!). I’ve been a ‘Fighter’ ever since… won some…lost some! (Life’s vicissitudes!)
The Butterfly and Bee became famous, only because of Ali’s famous line, “I float like a Butterfly and sting like a Bee“. Who can forget that famous Muhammad Ali based song by Jonny Wakelin, ‘The Black Superman’ (catch me if you can…) – one of my all time favourites. Muhammad Ali’s tongue competed with his famous EVERLAST gloves in throwing punches – one could hardly tell the difference. Never mind, he brought Boxing on to the World Stage like never before and like none before him. He fought four equal & fair rights for his kind and that ‘sparkle in his eyes’ was a signature tune. Only Parkinson’s Disease could knock him off, after Joe Frazer and George Foreman. RIP Muhammad Ali!
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