What a difficult one, Ralph. Perhaps the answer is yet to come. Let's see what happens on Friday.
You know we have a petition here in the UK for him to get a Knighthood. When I last looked and signed, it was about 30, 000. In a way, I think it's very slow. Perhaps now that he's died it will speed up, only problem being I don't know if they give this posthumously.
Four Americans apparently got the honour. Kevin Spacey being one of them. I really like the guy and he is a great actor. I also think he deserves the knighthood. Still, in keeping with your question, Mohammed Ali is truly in a different class. Much superior!
I tend to agree with Foreman who says that to think of him as a Boxer is an insult to the man. He was one of the most remarkable men of the last and present Century. The Indians call these people Vibhuti's, I believe. Great Souls specially sent my God.
America has been blessed with quite a few, funny enough. George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jnr,, Emerson, Jesse Owens ...in India, Gandhi and in South Africa Mandela. In Russia Gorbachev .... Gandhi was a lawyer as was Mandela, but that's not what they were known for.
So we see that Greatness is something entirely different. Not a Usain Bolt or a Phelps but perhaps a Carl Lewis or Rosa Parks. What made them great? In a way, this is your question really. They came at the right time, worked with a soulfully selfless attitude, in a spirit of sacrifice, identification with their causes and an indomitable will.
This kind of courage, a willingness to see the larger picture, to struggle... to die for your cause. We see this in Mandela, Gandhi, Lincoln, Martin Luther Jnr and indeed in Ali himself.
They were all luminaries, visionaries, excelled not only in greatness but goodness, graciousness and humility, with a tremendous belief in the capacity of man. They also reached out to and inspired the world in such a way as few perhaps could or even now can.
Finally, Mohammed Ali met my Spiritual Teacher 3 times, I believe. The depth, beauty and loftiness of their conversations, are a joy to behold! I hope that someone truly cover his generous and magnanimous Heart ...his spiritual side. Much Love, Ralph. The King is gone!. Long Live the King in the Hearts and minds of many!