Just hours after the world learned Muhammad Ali died at the age of 74 in a Phoenix-area hospital due to respiratory complications, fans and loved ones of the iconic boxing legend have taken to social media to share their memories and condolences. Hana Ali’s Muhammad Ali tribute provides a touching look at the athlete as a father. Just hours after her dad’s passing, Ali took to Twitter to share a beautiful, touching note about the kind of dad Ali was outside of the ring. Hana’s candid look at her father’s character — one that feels so strangely in tune with the Champ’s iron-clad attitude while in the ring — is telling of their relationship, and of Ali’s attitude about fatherhood as a whole.
Though there’s no denying that Ali flew like a butterfly and stung like a bee, it’s also incredibly heartwarming to see that he took that same approach to parenting his children as well. It’s comforting, in a way, that the man we saw dance inside the ropes of a boxing ring year after year was the same man to his children as he was to a nation of children and adults. So often now we’re gifted with a kind of celebrity that makes it impossible to decipher who they are on the screen versus who they are off the stage. It makes losing an authentic icon like Muhammad Ali harder, if that’s even remotely possible.
Some of the photos are of children — maybe Ali’s grandchildren or of friends’ children in with her father — and they speak to the pride Ali’s children, especially Hana, must have felt. I know I’m not alone in feeling that familiar heart swell as I look through these photos. They’re so personal and intimate; the kind of photos you’d take of a niece or a nephew or a best friend’s kid standing with or by your dad. The only difference is that Muhammad Ali’s persona was legendary, and, some would argue, as important to world at large as it was to his inner circle.
The pride Hana Ali must feel looking back on these is palpable. It makes losing a man like her father hard for the rest of us, but indescribable for his children and his grandchildren. Like so many other things that serve as memories in times like these, I hope that Hana Ali and her siblings are comforted by these reminders. As much as we’d all love to believe Ali was everyone else’s, it’s not at all lost on any of us that most importantly, he was theirs.