Celebrities and leaders from various walks of life have used their visibility to pay their respects to Muhammad Ali in light of his recent death. The latest is southern rap legend Willie D, who wrote an editorial for the Houston Press sharing his thoughts about the boxing and civil rights icon.
Along with being a member of the Geto Boys with fellow Houston, Texas emcees Scarface and Buschwick Bill, Willie D also used to be a boxer. As a former practitioner and lifelong fan of the Sweet Science, he recalled Ali’s legendary bouts with the likes of Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton and Larry Holmes. He admits that that he wasn’t a fan of Ali because of his bragging, but that his second defeat of Leon Spinks made him gain respect for him.
“I respected Ali’s ability to rededicate himself to his craft to achieve victory,” he wrote. “The more I watched Ali, the more I gravitated towards his energy. Yeah, he was a big talker, but so are most fighters. The difference was Ali could back it up with frequent precision, plus he was entertaining.”
Willie D’s admiration for Ali in the ring came first, but he later began to respect him for his character. Like many, he applauded Ali for sticking to his beliefs and refusing to enroll in the military for the Vietnam War — a decision that cost Ali millions of dollars, precious time during the prime of his career, and even his championship belt.
“Ali was one of the few celebrities, black or otherwise, who had the courage to speak out against racism and inequality in America. He showed star athletes, and all celebrities that we didn’t have to just take the money and run. He taught us that we could use our platforms to bring awareness to social injustices, be a voice for the voiceless, and unite people,” Willie D wrote. “What made Ali so admired was not the fact that he had the grit to speak out, it was how much he had to lose, how well he articulated his message, and the backdrop to which he first began to speak out.”
You can read the full run-down of Willie D’s homage to Muhammad Ali by clicking here.
is a journalist who covers music, pop culture, film/TV, race, culture and social justice. He is an editor at Okayplayer, and his work has appeared in Complex, Billboard, Guardian, NPR, MTV, Ebony, HipHopDX, The Flint Journal-MLive, and other publications.