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Lessons Learned From The Life Of Muhammad Ali

Updated on January 28, 2010
Muhammad Ali Centre, Louisville, KY
Muhammad Ali Centre, Louisville, KY

Champ for All Times

About a week ago I was reintroduce to Muhammad Ali's life during a visit to his hometown, Louisville, Kentucky where we visited the Muhammad Ali Centre. This museum is dedicated to the life and work of the world greatest boxer. I was both inspired and motivated to re-evaluate my life. I also hope that this visit had a positive impact on my six year old son.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. He was named after his father who was named after a 19th century abolitionist. He changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1964 after joining the Nation of Islam and in 1975 converted to Sunni Islam. He won his first fight in Louisville in 1960 as well as the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the Summer Olympics in Rome that year. From 1960-63, his boxing record was 19-0 with 15 knockouts.(Biography Online)

The Dream

At twelve years old, Cassius dedicated himself to boxing after receiving advice from a police officer. He was confident in his ability and had a tireless work ethics to go along with his high selfworth. By the time he was 18 years old, he had over 100 bouts. He was serious about his dream of being the heavy weight champion of the world. His fighting style was described as "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" with this strategy he danced his way to victory over his opponents.

Lesson learnt: Believe in yourself because if you do not, then no one else will. Ali believed that he was the BEST and in fact he proved that, thus achieving his DREAM.

Think Outside The Box

Cassius was known as The Lousiville Lip because of his constant banter. He addressed the media personally in a time when managers spoke on behalf of boxers. Ali joined the Nation of Islam at a time when US was in the height of Civil Rights battle. He was a controversial figure because of his alignment to Maclom X and the nation of Islam. This did not faze him because he was confident enough to know what suites him and had the self esteem to follow through. This is the hallmark of a leader.

Lesson learnt: One must follow one's vision, even if it is unpopular or controversial. Ali found Islam as the source of his inspiration and motivation and used it to propel himself into the stratosphere.


Even though Cassius returned from the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome to a parade for his gold medal, he was still refused service at a restaurant in Lousivelle. This was the segregated south. In 1967, Ali was stripped of his championship title. His passport was taken and his boxing liscence was cancelled. This was because he refused the draft because of religious reasons. For three and a half years Ali did not box and he appealed his conviction all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1971 the Supreme Court overturned his conviction and Ali was free to box and travel again. Ali was mentally and physically ready for the challenges, even though he would face some setback.

Lesson learnt: There will be challenges; life may seem unfair, but don't wallow in self pity. Pick yourself up and fight like the champ. Use adversaries as motivation to achieve GREATNESS.

The Comeback

Ali returned to the ring in 1971 in the Fight of the Century at Madison Square Gardens against Joe Frazier and lost. He lost again in 1973 to Ken Norton but won in the rematch. This clear the way for a rematch with Joe Frazier; which Ali won. The earlier setbacks did not frustrate the champ; he did not give up or quit; rather he used verbal banter and psychological intimidation to let the world and his opponents know that he was a WINNER.

Lesson learnt: Don't be afraid of loosing. Loosing can be a way of strengthening you; it can build character, courage and determination. Use failure as a source of motivation to gain success. Ali showed great courage and determination and that makes him a CHAMPION, even if he did not win any more bout.

The Rumble in the Jungle: Ali took on George Foreman in Zaire and defeated him. This was Ali's biggest win of his career. Ali used the 'Rope-a-dope' strategy to tire out Foreman and then knocked him out. Ali was not intimidated by Foreman's record of 37 knockouts of 40 bouts.

Lesson learnt: Be prepared always, even when you are the underdog, believe in your abilities and put in the work and you will be victorious. Ali went in the fight against Foreman as a 3-1 underdog, but didn't let that faze him. He set his sight on winning and that he did.

The Thriller in Manila: Ali again faced Joe Frazier for the third time in the Philippines and won by TKO. Ali said that of this fight "was the closest thing to death that I could feel."

Lesson learnt: Be prepared to give whatever it takes to achieve your goal. Winning can come in different forms; be prepared to accept the challenge and fight with passion.

Muhammad, The Legend

The golden age of boxing was dominated by Ali. His accomplishments are more than impressive. He has received many awards and accolades. There have been many films, movies and books written about the greatest boxer in the world. Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson in the early 1980s. He continues to give back to the world in his humanitarianism. He is a true LEGEND.

Movie Inspired by Ali

Movie Inspired By Ali


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