Editor's Note: On the eve of the funeral of Muhammed Ali, Ghana’s former President, Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings has recounted his double encounter with him when he visited Ghana in May 1964.
Then a young student, Rawlings was there when Muhammad Ali visited Achimota School. He subsequently managed to visit the World Champion at his hotel where the restless, ice cream eating Ali kept shadow boxing in his room.
Read below the full text of the former President’s tribute to Muhammad Ali
“I met Muhammad Ali as a youngster when Achimota School was chosen as one of the schools to be honoured by his visit.
Classes were stopped for two to three hours. We met the champion and his team in the Assembly Hall, where he recited some of his poems. Then virtually the whole school gathered around him for a group photograph.
Ali's visit electrified our school compound. The next day was an exeat day and when I heard he was staying at the Ambassador Hotel on the very floor my mother was in charge of, I went there with one of my friends and we called on her to take us back to him.
We spent about half an hour with Ali and his friends. He was eating ice cream and could hardly sit still but kept shadowboxing in the room.
Ali stimulated political consciousness. He sparked positive defiance. While his actions and words lifted the bar of political defiance, his unique combination of brash confidence and humility taught us the beauty, peace and strength in being true to ourselves.
He taught us to be bold and fearless in our fight for what was just. I learned from him to audaciously set my own standards. Muhammad Ali was the undying inspiration to so many of us. He epitomized the finest and the best of our generation, the pride of our time.
Ali fought battles in city rings
And a 'jungle' of his choosing
Loyal to his convictions
At the pinnacle of achievement
He paid a heavy price
For defying the establishment
He raised himself again to extraordinary heights
His battles were our battles
His loss was our loss
And his victory was our victory”