The greatest all-time boxing legend Muhammad Ali passed away but left an enormous impact on the sport for future generations to come. One of the biggest accomplishments in his career was becoming the heavyweight champion of the world by defeating Sonny Liston in 1964. The media saw him as arrogant and cocky, but Ali was an intelligent man that backed up his words with action. It is one thing to talk down about your opponent, but another thing to go out there and do it.
The major factor that separated Muhammad Ali from other boxers during their era was his will and determination in standing up against racial discrimination in this country. Unlike most black professional athletes today, he felt an obligation to speak up for black people suffering on a daily basis and kept oppressed by a system that did not appreciate their skin color. Muhammad Ali strongly felt that he had nothing to lose even if it costed him his life. In the 21st century, most black athletes are afraid to speak out on issues that affect black people because they do not want to lose endorsements or give up the opportunity to play a game they love and get paid millions of dollars.
If I had to define Muhammed Ali’s character in two words, it would be courage and sacrifice. Despite the difficulties he encountered throughout his life, he never gave up on what he believed in and put his life on the line to improve the conditions for black people in America and abroad. When the U.S. government wanted to induct Muhammad Ali into the Army during the Vietnam War, he simply refused to conform to the standards that others wanted from him. He believed it was wrong to fly 3,000 miles overseas to Vietnam and kill innocent people that never treated blacks unfairly. The Vietnamese are another group of brown oppressed people that had bombs dropped on them by the same government that did not value the lives of black people back in America. He quoted “I ain’t got no quarrel with the VietCong who has called me the N-word.”
Muhammad Ali knew who the real enemy was and did not fear the consequences for his actions. As a result, he got stripped of his heavyweight title for speaking the truth that many people were afraid of hearing. When Ali stepped back into the ring, he faced off against other legendary boxers such as Joe Frazier during the “Fight of the Century” played at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1971 and against George Foreman during a boxing match held in Zaire(now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1974 nicknamed “The Rumble in the Jungle.” Muhammad Ali should be remembered not only as the greatest and most charismatic boxer that the world has ever seen, but also as a passionate civil rights activist who spoke unapologetically about racial inequality among black people.
He loved black people and wanted to see them rise up among insurmountable obstacles. Ushering in an exciting era of boxing helped pave the way for future boxers and it inspired others to make a difference. Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Larry Holmes, Sugar Ray Leonard, Buster Douglas, and Floyd Mayweather would not exist without Muhammad Ali. He will be forever known as “THE GREATEST” because he believed in himself wholeheartedly when other people thought he was crazy. It serves as an inspiration for black people around the world to become the greatest version of themselves. Muhammad Ali is a true measure of a man that knows no limitations and can accomplish anything he puts his mind to.
Muhammad Ali continues to be an inspiration in my life on many levels because he taught me the importance of having confidence and knowledge of self. As a young man, having a better understanding of myself encouraged me to continue striving towards accomplishing my goals and never giving up despite ongoing obstacles that stand in my way. Standing up for what he believed in has also motivated me to stay focused and fearless in becoming the person that I am destined to be. One of the most important things that Muhammed Ali taught me is to be yourself and not allow others to define you.
Check out this video below about Muhammed Ali’s opposition to the Vietnam War: