Digital Ink – ‘Call Me The Greatest’: A Poem About Muhammad Ali



Two days ago on what would have been Muhammad Ali’s 75th birthday, I’d finally completed my poem. On paper. It took me more than six months to complete. Yeah, I started it round the time that he actually passed. Then largely left it only giving sporadic updates between the months. Admittedly, there are some people who might find it inflammatory or otherwise have problems with the tone. But then, I tried to keep it in spirit of the man who was never too shy to give his thoughts about the world he lived in. We need more people like him especially in this currently hostile global climate. And without further ado, my poem:

Call Me “The Greatest”

Don’t call me ‘boy’. You’re not my old man.
I know more about manhood than even you suckas can understand.
Don’t call me ‘nigger’. Cos I know the true worth of myself.
Call me that again, and I guarantee you won’t be in good health.
Don’t call me ‘Clay’. I no longer take ties to that slave name.
I will instead, till the day I find my true family again.
Don’t call me a ‘coward’. I never cared for Nixon, LBJ or Kennedy
Don’t ask what I can do for my country, ask what has my country ever done for me?
I’m not a draft dodger, I’m a conscientious objector
I ask the Almighty to grant peace as I prostrate towards Mecca
I also pray for Allah’s guidance in the ring as I wear the leather.
And as I tell these, I hear a condescending voice say “Yeah man, whatever”
So I walk through the assembled crowd, and get close to the person that was so loud
As to dismiss, tried to drown my voice with his sound, and said to him
“Well, aren’t you clever?”
The crowd laughs, but the man asks, “Muhammad, look, I understand why you’re angry”
“I think I speak even for a lot of us when I say, you should look for reasons to be happy”
And so I look at him, arms crossed, smiling and I reply:
“I’m not angry, Anger is not my personality. Anger is my status.”
“Anger is the mode used by our brothers and sisters, to deal with an entire nation that hates us.”
And so the man said, “All right, all right, we’ve got that much so far”
“Tell you what – why don’t you tell us what to call you? Why don’t you tell us who you are?”
So now, I smirk as I have the man’s attention
There’s a large enough receptions as I prepare my voice to bounce across three dimensions
Who am I? Call me “The Greatest”. ‘World’s’ my middle name.
Dozens of suckas in a hurry to challenge me, those dozens get knocked down all the same.
Sonny Banks, Archie Moore, Henry Cooper, Sonny Liston.
All of them recognise when my fist hits them like a piston,
I make stars crash to earth, I make giants tumble.
Ya think I’m cocky, but when you’re as good as me, it’s hard to be humble.
I’m the Black Storm, I uproot trees, and blow men off their feet.
I’ve made men who call themselves invincible, taste defeat.
Even spectators feel my thunder as I strike men down with and tear them asunder.
My lightning attack with blistering speed
And boxers feel, onlookers watch, and all others read
And all will know that I am *indeed* the Greatest..
On this earth, I reign supreme.
My fist of justice allows even the downtrodden, to once again dream.
Finally dream of the absurd, the ridiculous. And perhaps even the obscene.
Dream the impossible, until they finally realise, that impossible is nothing,
That’s what they call me.
The man stood there – At a loss for words, until he asked me:
“Should I call you ‘The Greatest’ or Ali?”
“Both”, I reply. “Both is what you should call me”
He replies back, “I can assure you Mr. Ali, remembering that will be as easy as sliced bread”
As he turns to walk away, I tell him “Hold on, man. I ain’t done yet!”
I briefly chuckle when I see the man’s whole body stop and react with dread.
He became a little bit more respectful, in response to what I said.
“Come on, man! Ya’ll thought I only had one name?!”
“If I get irate with you, you have only yourself to blame”
And so he said, “Aright Ali, please tell me another of your names”
“I suppose other titles make sense for someone of your fame”
So I ask him, “What’s your name, sir?”
And he replies, “Me, my name’s David. You can call me Dave”
And I reply back, “My name’s Muhammad. It means worthy of praise”
Suddenly a voice from the crowd yells “Worthy of praise is right! That guy twice beat Frazier!”
“How were you still standing against Foreman? How did you stand up against Shavers?”
I explained that he knocked me down once, but I whooped his butt all the same.
That said, no matter how often we trash-talk, belittle and call names,
When the match is over we embrace and stand as titans all the same.
But then I briefly apologize to those still waiting to hear my name.
They call me “Father”, at least that’s true of my sons and daughters,
And to watch them grow and mature, and have families of their own, is an unparalleled honour.
Call me “Brother”, it was when I was a young man that i understood its importance,
Now that I’m older and wiser, I’ve reunited with a wider family, knowing that title’s true significance.
Call me “Son”, whether it be Louisville, Kentucky, or Africa, home is the place that I yearn.
And the older I become, the more I discover that I have much to learn
About life’s lessons, and if the audience takes away of those lessons, take away these
Small tips on how to be the greatest if you please.
Firstly, greatness is made up of more effort when just talent,
Thinking you can coast by anything without preparing? That’s just simple arrogance.
Second, greatness is built on a lot of victories. But you can also lose.
Whether you can stay defeated, oh that’s something only you can choose.
Before greatness, there must come humility. No really, it’s true!
Because I got to where I am because of my family, trainers, tutors; and my faith in the Most High too.
My skill put lots of men on the canvas. Some matches over before they even began.
But there’s no other measure of greatness than when you turn fierce enemies, into greatest friends.
My grandchildren asked me whether they’ll call me The Greatest forever.
I tell them that even The Greatest wonders, expects and accepts that there may come along someone greater.
But if and when they do call you The Greatest, my advice to anyone and everyone in this great audience remains:
Mould your talents with effort, take time to prepare and better yourself,
Be proud enough to show your talents, be humble to know when you need help.
Offer the hand of friendship to willing foes, and most important to let everyone know,
And never, ever forget your name.


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