«What’s my name?» he asks as he deals blows. «What’s my name?» he insists, before the gaze of the world. «What’s my name?» he says when he receives another direct that damages him, even though that night, there was no blow that caused him more pain than the reason he repeated that phrase over and over again. Ernie Terrel was a World Boxing Association champion and in the lead-up to the BBA and OMB heavyweight titles on February 6, 1967 at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, he had an unforgivable attitude. During the promotional act, he called Muhammad Ali Cassius Clay, that is, by the birth name and not for the one he chose to defend his convictions and fight his most difficult rival: racism.» It’s the name of a slave. I didn’t choose it, I didn’t want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free man,» said the – perhaps – greatest boxer of all time when he decided to convert to Islam, with the gold medal of the 1960 Rome Olympics hanging around his neck.
When the Louisville-born heard Terrell, he immediately counterattacked him, called him «To Tom» and warned that he would beat him until he calls him by name, though he wouldn’t knock him out because that would mean taking away his time of suffering. In the ring, Ali carried out his plan and in the eighth round, when the story was already under control, he began to question it with that one question: What my name is?» It was a beating that ended with Ali winning by unanimous decision. It’s been more than 50 years since that fight. Four years passed since his death, of which a new anniversary is celebrated this Wednesday. But what unfortunately didn’t happen is that struggle Ali could never win: that of racial segregation, which these days re-emerged in the United States with the murder of George Floyd in the hands of a policeman in Minneapolis and transformed into a case that moves the world.