Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., Muhammad Ali was an American professional boxer who leaves a legacy worthy of the overwhelming praise and respect from fans across the globe. Ali, who died on June 3, 2016, was widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sporting figures of the 20th century. The former boxer was known for more than a champion in the ring, he was also a social activist who was not afraid of controversy.
At a time when it was not popular for African-Americans to voice opposing opinions against white supremacy, Ali never hesitated to speak or live his truth. During a time when people live every minute of their lives on social media in hopes of gaining “friends and likes” very few have the courage the former boxer exuded in all facets of his life. Even after his career in the sporting industry ended, the champion remained a modern-day hero. The late Dr. Martin Luther King spoke highly of him years ago and the first African-American president still speaks well of Ali today.
More than an awesome fighter, Ali was a courageous soul. He knocked people out for a living and possessed the courage necessary to risk prison for fighting a draft notice. In March 1966, the champ refused to be inducted into the armed forces and was systematically denied a boxing license in every state and stripped of his passport. This act silenced his career from March 1967 to October 1970. In 1971, his conviction was overturned and Ali quickly returned to the ring to regain his throne. Although he could not fight professionally from the age of 25 to nearly 29, he never stopped fighting and advocating for racial justice and African-American pride. To this wise, Ali leaves a legacy worthy of praise and respect.
Well-known for trash talking, Ali was always colorful and confident before his fights. A wordsmith extraordinaire, no one was better before him, nor after him when it came to the gift of gab. His trash-talking abilities endeared the whole world to him as he boasted of his ability to “Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!” In addition to the taunts he often rendered, many positive quotes from the Olympic gold medalist have been repeated in empowerment settings around the world.
Believing his birth name reflected one of a slave, Ali changed his public identity after joining the Nation of Islam. Initially, only a few journalists acknowledged the change which prompted a public announcement from the fighter. He said:
Cassius Clay is my slave name. I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.
The boxer initially retired in 1978 after losing his belt to former champion Leon Spinks and regaining it back seven months later. In 1980, Ali came out of retirement and lost two fights. After this, he officially retired for good in 1981.
Whether or not people agree with his methods, it is hard to deny a legacy worthy or praise and respect. Ali was an active force in civil rights and paved the road for many athletes to follow. The Champ refused to be defeated by the challenges he faced and instead used them as fuel for resilience. The boxing great died at 74-years-old and was loved by many.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
New York Times: Muhammad Ali: The Champion Who Never Sold Out
Graphiq: A look back at Muhammad Ali’s life
Inc.: 11 Super Inspiring Muhammad Ali Quotes
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