Muhammad Ali is a special man. Not only did he bring joy, passion, humor, power and grace to the brutal sport of boxing, he moved through the world in the same way. He was outspoken, confident, strong, and he was willing to stand up and take a lick for what he believed. He shunned his given name of Cassius Clay, Jr. for an Islamic name, Muhammed Ali, one who is worthy of praise.
Ali refused to step forward and be drafted by the US Army during the Vietnam War, and ended up being a conscientious objector. He was quoted as saying, “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.”
As a young boy, I recall staying up late to listen to his early fights on the radio. They rarely started before 10PM, but I would remain awake, even if I had school the next day, to root for The Champ. As you can imagine, boxing is entirely a visual sport, so listening to a bout forced me to visualize the fight in my imagination.
Here are a few of his quotations, clearly indicating his belief in self, pride, passion, and joy of living in this world.
- Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: A desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.
- Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.
- Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.
- A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.
- 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.
- I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.
- Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.
- The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.
This month, Muhammed Ali turned 65. It was a pleasure to watch this gifted person in the ring as he would “dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”
The world needs more people like Muhammed Ali.