In 1967, Muhammad Ali was convicted of draft evasion for refusing to be inducted into the U.S. Army. His anti-war convictions stemming from his Muslim faith, and his status as a minister, he argued, exempted him from the draft; the courts disagreed. Ali was thereafter banned from boxing in the United States and stripped of his world heavyweight title by the World Boxing Association. Here, Ali is confronted by students who berate him for refusing the draft, and he responds.
Yet despite public outrage and criticism, Ali’s objections found famous support. As Dr. Martin Luther King began to voice public opposition to the war in early 1967, he - in spite of his strained relationship with the Nation of Islam - explicitly echoed Ali: “Like Muhammad Ali puts it, we are all—black and brown and poor—victims of the same system of oppression.”
Famed sportscaster Howard Cosell argued that “They took away his livelihood because he failed the test of political and social conformity… Nobody says a damn word about the professional football players who dodged the draft, but Muhammad was different. He was black, and he was boastful.”
One of the principal demands of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR), an organization that included Tommie Smith and John Carlos - whose Black Power salutes at the 1968 Olympic Games similarly shattered the illusory separation of politics, race, and sport - was the restoration of Ali’s heavyweight title. Harry Edwards, a key architect of the OPHR, proclaimed Ali “the warrior saint in the revolt of the black athlete in America.”
Tyson explained that when he was 14 Cus D'Amato took him from their home in Catskill, N.Y. to Albany to watch on closed circuit as Larry Holmes retained the title in a 1980 Destruction of the faded Muhammad Ali. Tyson even recalled the exact date : Oct. 2.
“I was offended by how bad he beat up Ali” Tyson said. “When we drove home to Catskill about an hour from Albany nobody in the car said a word,we were all so upset. The next morning, Cus was on the phone with Muhammad Ali after taking this shellacking from Holmes. He said to Ali ‘I have this young black kid who is going to be Heavyweight Champion someday and I want you to talk to him.’”
Tyson got on the phone and said he told Ali : “ 'When I grow up, I’ll fight Holmes and I’ll get him back for you.’ I was 14 at the time. Cus had wanted me to beat him so bad.”
When Tyson did meet Larry Holmes seven years later, Muhammad Ali was a guest at the fight. Tyson said Ali whispered to him beforehand, “Get him for me.” “I moved my head, you got it.” Tyson knocked him down twice then knocked him out in 4th round laid Larry Holmes flat on his back vicious right hooks.