Can You Believe It? A Cornerman Wrote Muhammad Ali’s Famous Speeches!

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June 21, 2022

I am a great fan of Muhammad Ali. Rightly considered one of the greatest boxers of all times!

And also a shining example of branding genius--one who knew how to jab and punch powerful soundbites to the media people asking for it.

Remember, 'float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!'

The first time I heard it, it brightened me. These words so precisely frame Ali's boxing style and persona. I was curious, did Ali himself wrote those words? Must be an ace copywriter or wordsmith, I concluded.

And saluted the man behind the scene. 

Now, this is verified. Though the man behind these words wasn't a writer from a premier ad agency, and wasn't behind the scene. he was up there on the side of Ali--His cornerman Drew Bundini Brown!

Before meeting Ali, Bundini was a sailor and came to India. A lover boy, when he left India on the ship, some girl shouted  for him using the word--Bandini!

And he adopted that name.

What Does Bundini Means?

we Indians can understand the context better here...It brings to my mind the famous Hindi song 'mere saajan hain us paar!' by S.D. Burman from the film Bandini. 

In this particular song the lady love asks the shipman to also take her along because his beloved is on the ship. In the song she announces:
She is Bandini (Bonded) to her beloved!

Bundini, later became a restaurent clerk, and with a chance encounter got into the entourage of another great boxer Sugar Ray Robbinson. Who then made Bundini's way to Muhammad Ali's team.

The book, Bundini: Don't Believe The Hype by Prof Todd Snyder informs us that Bundini motivated Ali from the fighting ring corner, and was the man who wrote 'Float like a butterfly' and many other gems for him. 

In fact, the book proclaims that he and Ali had the effect on the early rappers. 

I wonder where from Bundini learnt to wirte so well. How a restaurent clerk developed and crafted such beautiful, live words. 

As a communication professional, writer, I salute the man, the invisible, forgotton hero. Whose influence on the brand-Muhammad Ali is finally being recognised now.

His story is a reminder, there is more in us than we imagine. Talent can flourish in all kinds of circumstances. He wasn't a mere cornerman, later he also appeared on silver screen in direction of another achiever Steven Spielberg.

And to all business people and startup founders, here is a hint:

Keep the writing-talent inhouse. Your core product might be good, great writing will take it to another level. 

Because content isn't just about lifeless keywords, it's about catching the essence of your brand and showing the world your true potential. 

About the author 

Puneet Bhatnagar

Puneet Bhatnagar, popularly known as Creative Punito--is a business innovator. An expert on SME business growth. He is a well-known creativity and innovation trainer, author, columnist and storyteller.

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