Goodbye Muhammad Ali, my hero.
It’s been a long time coming, but the King is dead.
Opponents of boxing will crow of a great man brought low by a disease caused by the sport he loved. But they will not only be flying in the face of medical evidence (many non-boxers get Parkinson’s and many boxers don’t) but they’ll be be missing the point. There are stories that show Ali was a man to be admired regardless of boxing.
Principle over expedience.
In 1967, after being World Champion for 3 years, Ali put his principles ahead of his career and refused to be conscripted to fight in Vietnam. He knew he’d be barred from the sport he loved and had given his life to. But, declaring that “No Viet Cong ever called me ‘nigger’,” he simply didn’t believe in that fight. The New York State Athletic Commission suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his title. It’d be three years before he could box again. For all his speeches, all his goading of opponents, Ali always recognised that there were thousands of others who took the same stand.
If he hadn’t been a boxer.
During an interview, Michael Parkinson asked him what he would’ve been if he hadn’t been a boxer. Ali answered that he didn’t know, but whatever he’d have been, he’d have been the best at it. “If I’d been a garbage man, I’d have emptied more garbage cans that anyone else.” He believed that being the best was just a matter of who was most dedicated, who committed themselves most completely to the goal. Nothing was out of reach.
Ali was the greatest, not because he was a boxer, but because of his attitude to the things he did. He gave 100% to achieve his goals. Not some idiotic x-factor-esque hyperbole of “110%, Simon”, but he set a goal and focussed his endeavours on that goal. If something wouldn’t contribute to the goal, he didn’t do it. If something would, he’d give it everything he had.
That’s why as a man and an inspiration, he wasn’t diminished one iota by his Parkinson’s Disease. It was just another opponent to be vanquished with a thirty years-long rope-a-dope.
- Be principled.
- Give it 100%.
I’ll finish with one of his best known quotes. The final piece of the puzzle.
Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it.
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.