First Published as “My Brother’s Keeper” on http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1267715 CNN iReport
Rahaman Ali Shares His Story of Love and Respect for His Brother Muhammad Ali
“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”
— Desmond Tutu
There are thousands of books and articles written about Muhammad Ali – a.k.a. Cassius Clay; the Greatest Boxer of All Time! Yet it can truly be said that there is only one book written from the perspective of someone who has spent their entire life knowing the champ and sharing the spotlight with him during his most historic moments in life and boxing. That person is his younger brother Rahaman Ali (formerly Rudy Clay). From the time he was a baby in his mother’s arms, Muhammad pledged to always protect his little brother and is quoted in later years saying “Rudy, I want you to be close with me for you are my only brother, and I love you very much. So, I want you to always enjoy the happy times with me, Brother.” – Cassius Clay.
I first met and interviewed Muhammad Ali in 1979 while working as News Director at WMBM in Miami, Florida. He was generating interest in his upcoming fight with boxing champ Larry Holmes. I met Rahaman in the late 80’s while doing freelance reporting in Louisville, Kentucky. What immediately struck me most about both men was the manner in which they respected and treated people – whether they knew you or not, that Clay family charm was always in full effect. They both treated all with dignity, kindness and respect. Yet, that paled in comparison to the love and respect they held for one another.
Now Rahaman, with the help of his business partner H. Ron Brashear, has pinned an autobiography entitled “That’s Muhammad Ali’s Brother – My Life on the Undercard.” Co-author, Ron Brashear, said the book’s intent is to let the world know that Rahaman made significant contributions toward his brother’s success.
He went on to add, “The book teaches people to love thy sibling. Readers should ask themselves if they are being the best brother or sister they can be. I have never witnessed a love between brother for brother like the love Muhammad and Rahaman have had all through their life and continue to have.”
According to Innovateus.net, the definition of the phrase “My Brother’s Keeper” conveys the meaning of being responsible for the well – being of one’s brother, or in general, extended to other human beings.” Rahaman Ali embodies this philosophy in his day-to-day dealings with all those whom he meets.
Brashear further stated, “The book teaches you first and foremost that someone as great as Muhammad Ali understands his success was not a solo experience. No one in this world has achieved significant success without a supporting cast and others being there. This is what comes shining through in Rahaman’s story. The book also wants folks to understand that it’s ok that it’s a shared success. If that’s your sibling, love thy brother or love thy sister. Both Muhammad and Rahaman made their parents proud. Their bond truly illustrates brotherly love at its finest.”
Rahaman fought five of his professional matches on the undercard of his brother Muhammad Ali. The first was on February 25, 1964, at the Miami Beach Auditorium in Miami Beach, Florida. He out pointed boxer, Chip Johnson, in his debut professional bout. On that night, his brother, Muhammad, fought Heavy Weight Champion Sonny Liston and won the “Ring, WBA and WBC World Heavyweight titles.”
His second fight on his brother’s card was the rematch between Muhammad and Sonny Liston on May 25, 1965, Rahaman defeated Buster Reed by knockout at St. Dominic’s Hall, in Lewiston, Maine. Muhammad successfully defeated Liston again and retained his “Ring & WBC World Heavyweight tiles. The third bout on his brother’s undercard was on October 26, 1970, at Atlanta City Auditorium in Atlanta, Georgia. Rahaman defeated boxer Hurricane Grant by knockout and his brother retained the “Ring World Heavyweight title by defeating Jerry Quarry.”
Rahaman’s fourth bout on his brother’s undercard was against Howard Darlington on December 7, 1970 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. Rahaman won the fight on points, and Muhammad won his bout against Oscar Bonavena by TKO. Up until that point the brothers had a successful winning streak when fighting on the same card. Rahaman was 7-0 and Muhammad was 20-0.
However, all that would change on March 8, 1971, and the streak would abruptly end in what was dubbed as “The Fight of the Century” at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. Rahaman was defeated by Danny McAlinden and Muhammad was defeated by “Smoking Joe Frazier.” Rahaman recalls that McAlinden was very tough and despite giving it his all, McAlinden proved to be the better fighter at that time. After his bout, he went ringside to watch and support his brother fight Frazier. In his book Rahaman recalls telling himself that it would be just a matter of time before his brother would catch Frazier with a great punch and knock him down. Instead, the opposite happened in the fifteenth and final round.
Rahaman’s professional record included 18 fights; 14 Wins (7 knockouts, 7 decisions), 3 Losses (1 knockout, 2 decisions), and 1 Draw.
The book “That’s Muhammad Ali’s Brother! My Life on the Undercard,” highlights Rahaman’s and Muhammad’s years growing up, the beginning of their amateur career, the Golden Gloves Boxing Tournaments, Ali’s Olympic Gold Medal Win, the training, the sparring, both of their conversions to Islam, his professional boxing career, his reflections on life, meeting Malcolm X, Sugar Ray Robinson and much more.
In his book Rahaman says to readers: “Whether you have any siblings or not, imagine, if you are not already in this situation, what life would be like if your sibling, brother or sister, was famous. Let’s expand that further by imagining that not only is your sibling famous, but a case could be made that your sibling is arguably one of the most famous human beings on the planet. Well, that’s what I have felt and witnessed practically my entire life growing up as the proud younger brother of Muhammad Ali aka Cassius Clay. You know your sibling is really famous, beyond the normality of being famous, when your own identity is sacrificed. By this I mean that whenever people see me out and about and one person recognizes me but the others are not aware of me, the person, more often than not, will say. “You see that guy over there? That’s Muhammad Ali’s brother!” Instead of saying, “You see that guy over there? That’s Rahaman Ali.” Additionally, whenever a person would bring someone up to meet me, they would say, “I want you to meet Muhammad Ali’s brother; instead of this is Rahaman Ali, the brother of Muhammad Ali.”
I asked Rahaman what does the book mean to him and what did he want people to take away from reading the book. He said, “I’m excited, I’m happy, it’s like a dream come true sent from heaven. It’s unbelievable that my life’s story is now available for people to learn about and is in the Muhammad Ali Center bookstore along with other books featuring my brother. I love my brother so much. He’s the most famous person in the world. A true icon, I hope that people take away from this book that we love each other and are dedicated and committed to one another… it’s truly about love.”