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New Yorkers reflect on what made Muhammad Ali ‘The Greatest’

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NEW YORK — It's easy to jump on the bandwagon during this time of mourning over the loss of Muhammad Ali and agree he was “The Greatest.”

But what made him the greatest has as much to do with his success inside the ring as the character he displayed out of it and the impression he made upon millions.

“He was a person of extraordinary warmth," said history professor Dr. Mujib Mannan. "And he had broad humanitarian concerns regarding the plight of oppressed people.”

Dr. Mannan tells us he met Muhammad Ali at this very Mosque about 40 years ago.

“As a Muslim also, he had this universal appeal, this universal outlook," said Dr. Mannan."And all over the world, every place I traveled, he was universally respected by Muslims and by others.”

So while we should never forget what Ali’s presence and confidence did for little black boys and girls struggling for racial equality during the turbulent 1960s and 70s,it's just as important to remember the emotional lift Ali ‘The Humanitarian’ gave to impoverished citizens of the world.

From his 1978 visit to Bangladesh to his historic fight in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, where he recaptured the heavyweight championship from George Foreman, he always fought for the people.

“Overseas we know about him" said Cameroon native Herve Bello. "When they had the fight in the Congo, we remember when he came all the way to Africa.  That was huge for us."

For Dr. Mannan the loss of Ali should not mean we lose touch with what he stood for.

“There’s somebody named Muhammad Ali in all of us," said Dr. Mannan.  "That person wants to rise to human excellence and also be concerned by concerned about his neighbor, and his neighbor’s plight. And he kept that, he expanded upon it, and it enveloped the world."