Freeman Cebu Sports

My Ali Memories

ALLEZ - ALLEZ By Jose Vicente Araneta -
According to an upcoming ESPN documentary, Muhammad Ali invented "rap", as in hip-hop music.

To tell you honestly, I don't like rap music. It's noisy, the singers are over-jeweled, over-dressed and over-hyped. There's no high notes to hit, you simply open you mouth at 100mph! Funny, since it's the same similar reasons why my father abhorred the music of Neil Young and Van Halen. See how things have come to a full circle? I don't know how gangsta music from South Bronx in the 70's can originally come from Kentucky in the 60's. And I don't care, too. But I care about The Greatest.

In the neighborhood of four blocks where I was growing up back in the 70's, only 2 homes, and not a fence between them, had black and white TV sets. The whole neighborhood kids, not surprisingly, all gravitated to the two houses. (These days, it amazes me how TV then can be the center of the neighborhood.) However, the owner of one house didn't look kindly at us- snotty kids who'd trample her flowers to death when she turned on her TV and influence her only son to do bad things. Of course, her plants died a violent death because we had to watch TV from her window, that is if she doesn't close it! As for the second reason, it wasn't true, of course.

But Pat Israel's house was different, everybody was welcome and it felt like home. He had a "Singer" TV, the kind that had 4 legs with faux wood panels. It had a colored plastic- red, blue and green- attached to the screen, which turned the objects from black and white to a tri-color.

The first Ali fight I remembered seeing at Pat's was with Ken Norton and the fight was labeled later as, "The Tale of the Broken Jaw", with Ali ending up with a broken mandible.

The second one was with the hated George Foreman. Unlike today when Foreman can be classified as a clown and a preacher who is said to make money more then God, the Foreman then was a sneering assassin, who had said in his book that he really wanted to kill Ali and Joe Frazier in the ring.

I was the only who hated Foreman, while the rest of the 'hood hated Ali with gusto. "Hambugero", they'd say. Our fathers also said that he was a draft dodger and they like their champions to be humble, like Ben Villaflor. And in the martial law years, they also wanted their champions to serve their country, too. I never told my friends that I picked Ali over their favorite or I'd be the picked clean on a daily basis leading to the fight.

In a time when only the radio was my only source of news, the "Rumble in the Jungle" was on everybody's lips. The day of the fight was a school day. For whatever reason, our teachers told us to go home and watch the fight. Maybe Ferdinand Marcos, an Ali fan, had secretly ordered DepEd to suspend classes.

When I arrived at Pats', it was rocking! It seemed that every home had sent all their able-bodied males to watch the fight. Fathers occupied the chairs while sons sat or stood on the floor nervously. The first few rounds was nervous for me, too, when Ali looked to me like tentative and scared and acting like a punching bag. Unknowingly for a 4th grader, it's now known as the famous, "rope-a-dope".

At the start of the 8th round, one kid noticed the round girl had turned the number "8" upside down. Maybe it was portent of things to come, I thought. And it did. Foreman was kayoed! Everybody lost their appetite except me. I hurriedly finish my late lunch and went back to see the replay. I couldn't get enough of it!

Today, there is no doubt that Ali is the Greatest sportsman ever. His influence goes beyond sports- to religion, politics and race. That fight, called as the "Rumble in the Jungle", was initially billed by the carpetbagger Don Kong as, "From the Slave Ships to the Championships", was probably one of the greatest upset in the sport.

So what has hip-hop got to do with Ali? The only music I can relate Ali to was Alvin Cash's disco song, "The Ali Shuffle". Listen, if Ali invented rap, then Andrew E is the heavyweight champion of the world.











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