The great Muhammad Ali died just a couple of hours ago. At the age of 74, the boxing legend left us all with a lasting legacy that no other man could have done.
Being crowned the “Sportsman of the Century” back in 1999, Muhammad Ali is no ordinary boxer. Aside from his multiple world championships, he is also an Olympic medalist. But aside from his boxing accolades, the great Muhammad Ali left us with more than just an athletics legacy. He left us all with the wisdom of a pure human being.
1. Standing Firmly With Your Beliefs Against All Odds
For Muhammad Ali, boxing is not a form of violence. It is art and it is his form of expression. Being a Muslim, the boxing champ refused to join the Armed Forces when he was asked to fight in Vietnam.
“I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong” and “no Vietcong ever called me nigger.”
2. Demanding Honor Without Arrogance
During that time, he was even asked to have his name be read out as “Cassius Clay.” He refused that as well because “Clay” was the name given to his slave ancestors by “white men.”
“Cassius Clay is a slave name. I didn’t choose it and I don’t want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free name – it means beloved of God – and I insist people use it when people speak to me and of me.”
This was not an easy feat for Muhammad Ali. Because of his refusal to be called “Cassius Clay,” he was banned from fighting in the United States and he spend most of 1966 fighting abroad.
3. Always Come Back Stronger!
After being banned in the U.S., Muhammad Ali proved that he was who he said he was. He was not a slave; he was Muhammad Ali. The greatest boxer of our century.
He went on to fight and gain his title against Zora Folley, which he defended 9 times. He also won the WBA championship from George Chuvalo, then went to defend his title against the southpaw Karl Mildenberger. Mildenberger was considered to be one of his toughest fights, but he beat him in round 12.
4. Understanding the Value of Leadership
Since Muhammad Ali was gaining a reputation because of his strength, he was constantly asked to fight on behalf of the U.S. government. Always, he would refuse the offer knowing the big influence he would have on his people. As a black man, it was a massive responsibility for the world champion to represent his race.
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs?”
5. Understand and Accept Your Own Demons and Saints
Muhammad Ali understood that balance is needed to fulfill one’s greatest potential. Though Muhammad Ali was a passionate and caring man, he had his own demons, according to Boxing Insider. Muhammad Ali was not perfect, but he stood by his craft and he showed the world what a champion is like.
“Ali has his faults. He wasn’t a terribly faithful husband. He was the all-time trash-talking king who knew just how to get under an opponent’s skin. He tortured Floyd Patterson and Ernie Terrell in the ring, taunting and belittling them and knocking them all around the ring without finishing them because they referred to him by his ‘slave’ name of Cassius Clay.”
6. Thrive in Life Even When You Have NOTHING
What most of us do not know is the fact that Muhammad Ali was abandoned by the nation he tried to uplift. Because of his race and his refusal to join the military forces, the government did not allow him to fight professionally for years. Because of this, Muhammad Ali did not have a job. He had failed marriages and affairs and people whom he trusted left him.
But this did not stop him from continuing his legacy. Though he was already old, he still kept boxing and it was too late when he retired back in 1981 because he had already been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Though his journey to greatness was filled with pain, suffering, disappointments and failures, Muhammad Ali moved forward and stayed as “Muhammad Ali,” the greatest boxer our century would ever know.
7. Mentor By Example
Muhammad Ali did not stay healthy enough to mentor a protégé in boxing, but he had one mentee in the form of the musician Michel. Michel wrote that after tagging along with Ali wherever he went, his life was forever changed.
“I saw him refuse to fight in Vietnam and be stripped of his title. He seemed to me to be a man of fibre who would give up everything for his beliefs.”
Aside from producing his album, “Muhammad Ali Introduces Michel,” the musician saw Ali in his purest form. He was the most generous man he knew. Whenever Muhammad Ali would pass by “a mother with a buggy who looked poor, he would put money in the buggy, telling her not to tell anyone.”
“As my mentor, the most important thing he taught me was that being kind is not just fun, it’s what we are in this world to do.”
8. Make The Life You Want
Muhammad Ali has created his own greatness. During his time, despite the depressing racial discrimination, he made a name for himself. Despite the world turning their back on him, he remained honest to his beliefs. At the same time, when Muhammad Ali was at his prime, he never had any lists for motivation and inspiration. He just knew this little secret that anyone can make the life they wanted.
Muhammad Ali had this popular mental exercise whenever he would go out to fight—and win. It was called “Future History.”
“In the days preceding a match, Muhammad would picture himself at the end of the fight with his arms lifted in the air and the referee proclaiming him the champion. He would visualise this so vividly, with total commitment and belief. He would hear the crowds cheering and shouting his name, he would feel how amazing it felt to win. He was totally in the zone. All his energy and focus would then be directed to making this happen.
“When he walked into the ring he was extremely well prepared, both mentally and physically. He’d already won the fight in his mind and so his subconscious mind would be constantly looking out for ways to make his desired outcome true.”
To the greatest boxer of our century, thank you for living a life of legacy that would be embedded in our hearts forever.
[Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images]