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Happy Birthday, Champ!



OPINION features excerpts of pieces by columnists from the Op-Ed page and other sections of The New York Times. All columns from the last seven days are available at nytimes.com; Op-Ed pieces (by columnists and outside contributors), plus Editorials and Letters to the Editor, are at nytimes.com/opinion. Please let us know what you think of OPINION at upfront@scholastic.com.

At 65, you're still the people's heavyweight champion. You're the reason the best boxing now is on ESPN Classic, when you, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman dominated the Golden Era of heavyweight boxing. With or without the title, you fought all over the world, and you always made it fun. You refused to be drafted during the Vietnam War, and when you went to court as a religious objector to the war over what you called "my beliefs" as a Muslim, you turned many Americans against you. But not long after your loss to Frazier in 1971, the Supreme Court ruled in your favor. And when you beat Foreman in Zaire in 1974, America put you on a pedestal. You kept fighting long, hard battles until 1981. A year later, the Parkinson's syndrome was in your slurred words, then in your face, then in your body. Even so, you stole the show at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta when you held the torch at the opening ceremony. And wherever you go, you'll always steal the show.

Dave Anderson