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A Close Encounter with Mohammed Ali
Posted by Swami Anand Kul Bhushan    Friday, June 10, 2016 at 07:53

“Who’s this guy” asked Mohammed Ali when he saw Osho in a locket in my mala (rosary) as I bent to shake his hand at a reception by the American ambassador in Nairobi, Kenya.

“He’s the greatest,” I replied. Ali was not amused. Did I spot him clenching is fist? Explaining why I thought my guru was the greatest to the greatest boxer did not seem a prudent course of action just then.

Diplomatically, I told him he was my guru or master. Giving him a brief lecture on my guru Osho would be out of context but he was intrigued with the colour of all my clothes, all in orange.

This incident sprung into my mind with the passing away of the greatest boxer of all time. He will remain an inspiration for all who fight for human rights and justice.

In 1980, the greatest boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali visited Nairobi, Kenya, where I met him. He came for a very peculiar reason.

US President Jimmy Carter had announced that the US would boycott the Moscow Summer Olympics, but feared the US would be embarrassed if other countries failed to follow their lead. As a major sporting nation and winner of so many Olympic medals in athletics, Kenya’s support in this ban was crucial.

To ensure that Kenya boycotted these Olympics, President Carter enlisted the support of three time heavyweight world champion, Muhammed Ali, who was a super-hero in Africa. Enlisting the boxer’s support was quite easy since he himself was not in good terms with the Russians. Mohammed Ali received a grand reception in Kenya, and met President Moi who announced the boycott.
During this visit, I covered his press conference he said getting Kenya to boycott the Moscow Olympics was a big victory as Kenya was number one nation in track and field events. He answered many questions including why he changed his religion after his chucked his Olympic gold medal in the river after denied service in a restaurant and harassed by a gang of whites because he was coloured.

He also explained why he did not join the army to fight in Vietnam War claiming conscientious objector status and lost his title when he was at the top of his career. He never went to prison while his case was under appeal and in 1971 the US Supreme Court overturned the conviction.

He met world leaders but he was a very simple man who connected with everyone he met. When I requested him to autograph his photo, he readily agreed much to my delight.