I like to think about life in terms of happy moments and firsts. I don’t like to think about life…
Muhammad Ali: An Extraordinary Life
“Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” – Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali will always rank as one of the greatest heavyweight boxers in history. However, his greatest contributions in life were not inside the ring. Yes, he won an Olympic Gold Medal. Yes, he became one of the youngest World Champions in history at only 22 years old. Yes, he remains the only Heavyweight World Champion ever to win, lose, and recapture the heavyweight title 3 times. Yes, he fought in one of the greatest battles in history against Joe Frazier in the Thrilla in Manila. Even with all of these incredible athletic achievements though, Ali’s true greatness in life was outside of the ring.
At the peak of his athletic career when he was in his prime at 29-0 as a World Champion, Ali was arrested, stripped of his titles, and banned from boxing for his beliefs as a Muslim. He refused to fight in the Vietnam War because he was a devout Muslim and he did not want to kill other human beings. He held steadfast to his religious beliefs as the US Government tried to put him in prison and destroy his life. Ali lost his money, his popularity, and his right to make a living as a boxer. There was a period of time when it looked like he would end up in prison and never fight as a boxer again. He was convicted of draft-dodging, a felony with serious consequences. However, even without money or popularity, Ali refused to be broken. Ultimately, the fight went all the way up to the US Supreme Court, and his conviction was overturned on constitutional grounds. Ali fought for his religion, for his beliefs, for his values, for world peace, for a better world. In doing so, Ali set a new standard of greatness for athletes. For many, it was no longer enough for an athlete to be the fastest runner, the biggest homerun hitter, or the best 3 point shooter. Ali became the 1st athlete to transcend sports and to become a real superhero to millions around the world. He inspired people not only to chase their dreams, but to live with honor, courage, and strength. Amazingly, he returned to the ring after almost 4 years, and eventually won the heavyweight world title again.
True greatness can never be measured by what you do for yourself. It can only be defined by what you do for others. Thank you Muhammad Ali for inspiring us to live our greatest lives too.