By: Aqeel Daniels
Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, started boxing at the age of 12 in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. He took up boxing because one day his bike was stolen. After going to the cops, he told them he wanted to beat up whoever had taken his bike. The officer he was speaking to happened to run a boxing gym in the local neighborhood and told Cassius he should get involved. From then on his life was set. He was going to be the best boxer of all time.
As he honed his skills, Ali became one of the most talked about figures in sports history. He loved to downplay his opponents in short poems that rhymed, although he was often frowned upon for it. After beating Sonny Liston for the Championship belt, the doubters were silent and his career took off. Cassius began to get in touched with his religious side becoming a part of the Nation of Islam, influenced by his good friend Malcolm X. Cassius was given a new name: Muhammad Ali. He felt that the name he was given as a child was a slave name.
He came in contact with a life-changing decision when he was drafted to the Vietnam War. Ali argued his religion prevented him from going to war. He was arrested for draft dodging. Ali was stripped of his boxing license and sent to jail for 3 years. Ali was not only an influential leader throughout history but he set examples for people to follow by standing up for his beliefs. He lived his life how he wanted and made the choice to not let anyone else affect how he would live. Fighting for his religion was something that gave hope to the Nation of Islam and made their faith stronger because of Ali’s stardom.
“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. Its and opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. Its a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is NOTHING.”
“I aint got to be what nobody else want me to be… and I aint afraid to be what I want to be… think how I want to think.”
Ali has been recognized with many awards;
-Elected to the boxing hall of fame in 1987 considered the greatest boxer of all time.
-Awarded the Essence Living Legend Award, the professional accomplishments of the Living Legends have enabled them to provide examples of personal excellence that have benefited others and enriched the nation in a variety of ways 1997.
-Also receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award is an award that is part of the ESPY Awards. Although it is a sport-oriented award, it is not limited to sports-related people or actions. Other recipients Nelson Mandela, Michael Sam and Howard Cosell.
Although Muhammad Ali is one of the Greatest hero’s in not only sports history but in general some of his methods were unorthodox and controversial. He would sometimes insult America in his words toward the media, insulting our military in numerous occasions which could have been seen as un-American like. His choice of word could have had more restrictions, he also could have handled his anger in a more positive way and instead of lashing out turn it into a positive. Ali biggest contribution, which in my opinion is his ability to speak up, was also sometimes one of his biggest weaknesses in certain ways. Also his anger contributing to his mouth cause for two weaknesses when put together could be detrimental. Throughout his life Ali never experienced much failure other than the few years he went through prison and his fighting license being taken away along with his championship belt. Through this time period he face different obstacles that he didn’t back down from. His finances began to struggle, this led to problems involving his inner circle due to the fact that Ali was at the time the highest paid boxer ever and there was no way his finances should have been low. He was able to earn money by speaking at colleges even though when doing so students tried to heckle him with questions concerning the draft dodging Ali handled his own. As for not being able to fight he stood strong in his decision not to step forward and enter the draft and by doing so with a Unanimous decision, just like many of his fights, his was cleared of all charges and retained his license plus his title belt.
Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease three years after walking away from boxing he was only in his early 40’s the hero himself was never going to be the same. He then began to donate money to the cause and has continued to do so over the years. Ali has not only done that but he has opened a gym for the youth to do all different type of sports in his hometown of Louisville. He has always been an important figure throughout American history and African American history. His actions during a time where African American struggles peeked were courageous and beneficially in more ways than one. He was able to break down barriers for people who followed in his footsteps. Also allowing for religion to be seen and accepted among the Supreme Court system.
As an athlete, I have always looked up to Muhammad Ali and aspired to be like him in many ways. I only have a few heros and he stands at the top of my list. Whenever I get a chance to write about a hero, he is my choice because of all that he’s done and how he’s done it. My name is Aqeel Daniels. I have played football all my life. I respect what football means to the world. Through my love for the game, I hope to change the lives of others in a positive and effective manner.
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Harrison, Benjamin T. 2001. “THE MUHAMMAD ALI DRAFT CASE AND PUBLIC DEBATE ON THE VIETNAM WAR.” Peace Research, 2001. 69. JSTOR Journals, EBSCOhost (accessed November 3, 2014).
Mazrui, Ali A. Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Apr., 1977), pp. 189-215