I watched Ali press the flesh in Manila and Kuala Lumpur, in Kinshasa and London, in Vegas and New York, saw the magic of his charisma hypnotize Frank Sinatra, the Beatles and enough other entertainment superstars to light up the Hollywood sky. I saw it dwarf the psyches of absolute-power heads of state like Zaire’s Mobuto Seseseko and the Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos. I saw it turn politicians, captains of industry and Howard Cosell into slack-jawed, Jell-o-kneed sycophants.
His was a bond forged with a constituency that didn’t have to meet him to know him, a constituency that transcended all economic, racial, ethnic and political barriers.
With his passing they lost a hero.
With his passing, I lost a friend.