“I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew who I was.” These are wise words spoken from arguably the greatest boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali.During Black History Month, we are quick to mention our civil rights leaders Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, or maybe even Jesse Jackson may get thrown in the conversation.
However, somewhere in that conversation, we sometimes overlook Muhammad Ali.
His words showed his sense of humor. His confidence made him fearless, and you couldn’t get through his mental toughness if you had the best psychiatrist in the world.
Born in Louisville, Ky, Cassius Clay Jr. was his slave name. On March 6, 1964, he announced that he converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali, a name given to him by Elijah Muhammad.
Usually, a fighter won’t become champion until he’s at the height of his prime, usually around age of 29 or 30.
Ali won his first heavyweight belt at the age of 22, beating power puncher Sonny Liston. Back then, such a feat was nearly impossible.
He won his next 18 fights, 15 by knockout. He was not only a fighter in the ring, but also a fighter for civil rights.
During the civil rights movement, Ali was outspoken. He also became a global icon during the struggle. On April 28, 1967 when drafted for the Army, Ali refused.
Question 1: Was Ali supposed to support our country when our country didn’t support him and his values? He was later fined $10,000 and stripped of his title for four years.
Question 2: Hypothetically speaking, let’s say that Muhammad Ali never took a break from boxing. Do you think he would have ever lost?
Some say Ali never reached his prime. Did he reach his prime after he knocked out George Foreman? These are questions that the world will forever debate, but will never know.
Ali’s message of Black pride and Black resistance to White domination was of great impact.
Rosa Parks refused to get out the seat and Ali refused to be drafted and became one of the few African Americans to get a gold medal is Black history. He took boxing to international heights from the Philippines to England to Africa. That’s Black history.
Standing up for Black people in the time of pain and need is Black history. Overcoming adversity when the whole world counted you out. That is Black history.
Being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Syndrome and becoming a bigger sports icon is Black history.
“I must be the greatest,” he famously said. Can anyone argue?