Remembering Muhammad Ali: Great Lessons From The Activist Champion

Estimated read time 6 min read

As the world says farewell to the boxing champion Muhammad Ali, there is no doubt about his fast moves and killer punch. He will always be remembered as the greatest, most celebrated athlete of his time. However, I want to pay tribute to his other moves, the fast-paced prose of his poetry and the strength of his principles, because it was due of his principles that he helped the civil rights fight and touched the world outside of the boxing ring.

Muhammad Ali
Here, Ali receiving the gold medal as the 1960 Heavyweight Champion.


When I heard the news of the passing of Ali last Friday , I couldn’t help but think about my childhood and how my father admired him, and how he’d tell me stories of his greatness. It was the early eighties and we were in the Dominican Republic, but still his name and his achievements were known and respected.

One of the things I love the most about Muhammad Ali was the way he spoke, his poetry and his ability to play with words. The affirmations that seemed pretentious in the beginning to later become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Moreover, his awareness on the power his image had to fight for civil rights and rebel against racism.

There are many lessons we can learn from Muhammad Ali, about resilience, self-confidence, fearlessness and so much more. I want to focus on those things that made him an activist, an advocate and much more than a champion athlete. I want to remember Muhammad Ali, the courageous.

Farewell Champ, your legacy will forever have impact in this world!

Muhammad Ali
This is such a memorable image; one that I know my dad is going to love as the boys from Liverpool wanted their moment with Ali, who at the time was yet to become a legend. Well, he had yet to become Muhammad Ali. The Beatles, from left, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison, take a fake blow from the boxer then known as Cassius Clay, while visiting the heavyweight contender at his training camp in Miami Beach, Florida on February 18, 1964.


“He who is not courageous enough to
take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

If I could use only one word to describe Muhammad Ali is courageous. His actions, since the very beginning were. He didn’t wait to be famous or powerful to exercise his courage. Of course, standing up against the Vietnam War despite losing his championship title and facing jail, was one of the highest expressions of his courage. Years later, facing Parkinson’s disease and becoming an advocate and the image of the disease to benefit so many people around the world, just proved that his courage was not only while in the ring, as a fearless boxer, but in the way he approached life. We all can use his memory to exercise a little bit more courage in our daily lives to speak out against injustice and to lead our lives pursuing our highest self.


“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

The level of awareness and sense of duty that Ali had was admirable. This quote speaks to his calling and commitment to serve others, not just for him due to who he was, but the duty of any human being. If we all lead our lives invested in serving others, helping our neighbors, communities and the country, we will experience so much prosperity, harmony and peace. During his years as a boxer, he helped the black community and advocated for civil rights, living by this principle and encouraging others to do the same.


“Hating people because of their color is wrong.
And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”

This is probably the most powerful quote that Muhammad Ali ever said. Not just because he was speaking against racism, but because he had the courage to specify that it doesn’t matter which side it comes from. He knew that speaking about unfairness and violence against black people wasn’t enough to make a great society, he knew before many could even understand that ending discrimination in all shapes and forms is the way to a thriving society in which respect for all is the norm.


“The man who has no imagination has no wings.”

As with all of his extraordinary thinking, this is definitely another way to describe Ali. Through his imagination he became what he wanted to be ‘the greatest’ boxing champion of the 20th century. Moreover, he stood for his principles and imagined a world with social justice, without racism, with freedom. Through his vivid imagination he had wings that took him to greatness. I like to think that the same imagination carry him through his illness, giving him wings once his body had fail him and he couldn’t be articulate as he used to be or have the fluency that granted him the spotlight.


“The man who views the world at 50 the same as
he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

During his years of youth, Muhammad Ali showed that he was smart, funny, and a great athlete. Of course, he made mistakes as we all do. What I love about this quote and the reason I chose it to be my last, is that later in life, Ali reflected and changed, showing the wisdom of a smart man who has lived life and learned from all of his experiences.

As a sports fan, and former sports journalist, I could write so much about the former heavyweight champion, as his place among the great athletes of the 20th century is secured. However, I chose to reflect on his legacy for diversity and inclusion, his eagerness to speak his mind, his audacity to defy the status quo, and his pledge for true freedom.

How will you remember Muhammad Ali?

Muhammad Ali

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