WASHINGTON: Nelson Mandela taught forgiveness at grand scale and his life embodied hope for the world, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali said in a moving tribute to legacy of the former South African president.
“His was a life filled with purpose and hope; hope for himself, his country and the world,” Ali noted after South Africa announced the demise of of Mandela, Thursday at the age of 95.
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Mr. Mandela,” Ali said in a statement.
“Mandela inspired others to reach for what appeared to be impossible and moved them to break through the barriers that held them hostage mentally, physically, socially and economically,” Ali added.
The two towering figures of recent history met on two separate occasions, with photographs of their meetings splashing in the media. In a famous photograph Mandela, a boxing fan, and Ali pose as punching with their clenched fists.
In a tribute, Muhammad Ali wrote for Mandela last month in the Huffington Post, the former world champion recalled that he was amazed to discover that Mandela used to listen to his fights when he was imprisoned on Robben Island. “That humbling revelation moved me to tears. There he was, a king in exile, being lifted up by my ring exploits. Had I known he was listening to Ali-Frazier I, I probably would’ve beaten Joe that night. I was always the greatest when I was fighting for something.”
In the statement issued Thursday by Ali Center on the passing of Mandela, the sportsman noted that Mendela ” made us realize, we are our brothers’ keeper and that our brothers come in all colors.”
“What I will remember most about Mr. Mandela is that he was a man whose heart, soul and spirit could not be contained or restrained by racial and economic injustices, metal bars or the burden of hate and revenge. He taught us forgiveness on a grand scale. His was a spirit born free, destined to soar above the rainbows. Today his spirit is soaring through the heavens. He is now forever free.”