Who’s this guy?

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Kul Bhushan’s close encounter with Mohammed Ali, in 1980.

Mohammed Ali with Kul Bhushan

“Who’s this guy?” asked Mohammed Ali when he saw Osho in the locket of my mala as I bent to shake his hand at a reception by the American Ambassador in Nairobi, Kenya.

“He’s the greatest,” I replied.

Ali was not amused.

Did I spot him clenching his fist? To explain why I thought my guru was the greatest to the greatest boxer did not seem a prudent course of action just then. Diplomatically, I told him he was my guru or master. Giving him a brief lecture on my guru Osho would be out of context but he was intrigued by the colour of my clothes, all in orange.

Mohammed Ali with Kul Bhushan

This incident sprung into my mind with his passing on June 3, 2016. He will remain an inspiration for all who fight for human rights and justice.

In 1980, ‘the greatest boxer of all time’, Muhammad Ali, visited Nairobi, Kenya, where I met him. He came for a very peculiar reason: US President Jimmy Carter had announced that the US would boycott the Moscow Summer Olympics [to protest the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan] but feared the US would be embarrassed if other countries failed to follow their lead. As a major sporting nation and winner of so many Olympic medals in athletics, Kenya’s support in this ban was crucial.

For this purpose President Carter had enlisted the support of the three-time heavyweight world champion, who was a super-hero also in Africa. To get the boxer’s support was quite easy since he himself was not in good terms with the Russians. Mohammed Ali received a grand reception in Kenya, and met President Moi who then announced the boycott. I was at the time covering this press conference.

Mohammed Ali said getting Kenya to boycott the Moscow Olympics was a big victory. He answered many questions; that he changed his religion after being denied service in a restaurant and harassed by a gang of whites because he was coloured. He also explained why he had not joined the army to fight in the Vietnam War claiming conscientious objector status, thus losing his title when he was at the top of his career.

Though he met with world leaders he was a very simple man who connected with everyone he met. When I requested him to autograph his photo, he readily agreed much to my delight.

Related quote by Osho
Boxing Should be Banned

Kul BhushanKul Bhushan is a regular contributor

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