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My Dad and Muhammad Ali

It’s June! On the 20th, we honor our fathers. (Hopefully, we do that other days as well.) June 3rd this year marks the 5th anniversary of the death of Muhammad Ali, a man my father revered, so I’d like to talk about Ali as well as my dad.


Muhammad Ali was an American professional boxer, activist, entertainer, and philanthropist, who has been ranked as the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time. One of Ali’s famous quotes is: “I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was. I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.”


After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, Ali retired in 1981, as the only three-time heavyweight world champion. In 2005, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.


Daddy loved boxing matches and greatly admired the champions. I remember as a child going to the local beer garden with my parents and sister and brother to listen to each championship fight on the radio. We kids had fun in the back room sipping soda and playing games. Daddy was glued to the radio—he didn’t want to miss a word.


Even after I grew up and left home, Daddy was in awe of heavyweight champions, so imagine his excitement when Muhammad Ali walked into his shoemaker shop one day in 1972! Ali had just set up his training camp in Deer Lake, Pennsylvania, a small hamlet near where we lived, in Pottsville.


“I hear you’re the best shoemaker around and that you could put weights in my boots so I can strengthen my legs, and that you could do that for about fifty dollars,” Ali said to my father—in just those words. I know the exact words because the story has been told hundreds of times in our family.


“I no can do,” my father told him in his broken English while shaking his head from side to side. Yet he was so thrilled he could hardly contain his excitement.


“What?!” Ali exclaimed. “I was told you’re the best shoemaker in Pottsville. And you tell me you can’t put weights in my boots for about fifty dollars!”


“I no can do,” my father told him again. “I do for twenty-five dollars!”
And he did. Ali gave him fifty dollars anyway.


Muhammad Ali’s life was rewarding, yet often very difficult. My family is grateful that he gave Daddy a story he told proudly for the rest of his life.


Mi Papá y Muhammad Ali

Por Ellen Wood


¡Estamos en junio! El día 20 les rendimos homenaje a nuestros padres. (Con suerte, también lo hacemos otros días —parece que los papás son tan poco apreciados). El 3 de junio de este año marca el quinto aniversario de la muerte de Muhammad Ali, un hombre al que mi padre veneraba, así que me gustaría hablar sobre él además de sobre mi Papá.
Ali no era solo un luchador. También era ingenioso, encantador y entretenido. Dos de sus citas más famosas son: “Soy el más grande. Lo dije incluso antes de saber que lo era. Pensé que, si lo decía lo suficiente, convencería al mundo de que realmente era el más grande.”


Después de que le diagnosticaran la enfermedad de Parkinson, Ali se retiró en 1981 como el único campeón mundial de peso pesado en tres ocasiones.
A Papá le encantaba ver el boxeo y admiraba mucho a los campeones. Recuerdo que cuando niña iba a la cervecería al aire libre con mis padres, mi hermana y mi hermano para escuchar cada pelea de campeonato en la radio. Los niños nos divertíamos en la habitación de atrás bebiendo refrescos y jugando. Papá estaba pegado a la radio— no quería perderse una palabra.


Incluso después de que crecí y me fui de casa, Papá siguió admirando a los campeones de peso pesado, ¡así que imagínate su emoción cuando Muhammad Ali entró en su zapatería un día de 1972! Ali acababa de montar su campo de entrenamiento en Deer Lake, Pensilvania, un pueblito que estaba cerca de donde vivíamos en Pottsville.
“Oí decir que eres el mejor zapatero y que podrías poner pesas en mis botas para que se me fortalezcan las piernas, y que podrías hacerlo por unos cincuenta dólares,” le dijo Ali a mi padre —con esas palabras exactas. Sé las palabras exactas porque la historia se ha contado cientos de veces en nuestra familia.


“No puedo hacer,” le dijo mi padre en su inglés no muy bueno, mientras movía la cabeza de un lado a otro. Sin embargo, estaba tan feliz que apenas podía contener su emoción.
“¡¿Qué?!” exclamó Ali. “Me dijeron que eres el mejor zapatero de Pottsville. ¡Y tú me dices que no puedes ponerme pesas en las botas por cincuenta dólares!”


“No puedo,” le dijo mi padre de nuevo. “¡Lo hago por veinticinco dólares!”
Y así lo hizo. Ali le dio cincuenta dólares de todos modos.


La vida de Muhammad Ali fue gratificante, pero a menudo muy difícil. Mi familia está agradecida de que le haya dado a Papá una historia que él contó con orgullo durante el resto de su vida.

Traducido por Teresa Dovalpage

Author

  • Ellen Wood, born in 1936, is a prizewinning author, columnist and former management executive. After her youngest child began school, Ellen started an in-house ad agency and won 16 awards for annual report and advertising excellence, including 4 national awards. Five years after her mother died of Alzheimer’s, Ellen experienced early symptoms (she has the gene, APO-e4). At 68 she developed a program of mind/body/spirit techniques that proved so successful, she wrote and published “Think and Grow Young,” followed by “Joy! Joy! Joy!” (now retitled “The Secret Method for Growing Younger,” Volumes 1 and 2) and gave inspirational speeches. Since 2018 Ellen has been the ad agency for NorthStar Tire and Auto in Questa, NM. Ellen started painting in November of 2020, having dabbled at it in her 20s, and gave herself a new name: Maruška, her father’s middle name. She is overjoyed to be part of a big, loving, kindhearted family. You can find her paintings at www.northernnewmexicoartists.com/ellen-wood

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