That’s what I think about when I consider what Muhammad Ali has meant to sport, culture, and the world. Ali won his first heavyweight title in 1964, in stunning fashion, in his infamous bout over Sonny Liston, and fought his last fight in 1981. For sports fans 30 and under, we were too young to see his brilliant career unfold and unable to watch him compete in his prime. Most of what we know of Ali is perpetuated through popular culture, mythical stories, and archived videos on the internet. Yet, ask anyone around the world, regardless of age, who is the greatest fighter of all time and the answer is unanimous -- Muhammad Ali.
Muhammad was charismatic, but approachable. He was a showman, but relatable. Flashy, but hardworking. He was the world’s first crossover athlete, and may be the most popular sports figure that this world will ever know. Ali transformed the American public’s view of black athletes, and was a trailblazer in bridging the gap between races during a pivotal time in our country’s history.
Ali is the definition of what all athlete's desire to be. In a time where African Americans were looking for a hero, he transcended sport, and became more more than that -- an icon. In a time of rampant inequality, he united a nation. Long after his career ended, he was as influential as ever. Ali’s effect on boxing, and humankind has created a lasting footprint in history, leaving the world a better place because of him having been a part of it. He was unashamed and unafraid to be himself. That’s legacy. He will be remembered as a hero for what he did with gloves on, and a legend for what he did when they came off. I hope to influence the world in a fraction of the way that he did. Long live Ali.