But it all stemmed from boxing. His matchless magnificence, the self-proclaimed “greatness”, was invented early as a cheery prizefighter’s publicity stunt. It was a greatness that was to balloon and achieve near-universal acceptance as he became acknowledged as a beacon not only for downtrodden African Americans but for global Islam as well, not to mention the anti-war movement or poverty in developing countries. In the middle of press conferences, reporters would earnestly ask him about solving the Palestine problem, or if he could have a quiet word with Moscow about President Ronald Reagan’s star wars programme. Ali was a rebel with a cause – lots of them.