Many know Muhammad Ali as The Greatest Of All Time. He may have fought professionally for 21 years, won the world heavyweight title three times and paid a heavy physical price for his labors, but Ali was so much more than that.
It still remains an unequivocal point of view that Ali was the most charismatic sportsman of all-time and retains a place in the hearts of millions. Ali was not only one of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of boxing gloves, but an individual who gave up the best years of his career because of a belief.
Which brings to the point of this article; What Superstar Athlete would give up the best years of their career today for a belief.
Think of all the greats, from Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, Tiger Woods, Serena and Venus Williams to whoever you consider a superstar today. Who would be willing to fight for their beliefs even at the point of jail time and lost of the right to do what you do at the height of their career.
I’m sure some will name Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinals safety who left football to become an Army Ranger, was killed in southeastern Afghanistan in April 2004. While that was a very brave and patriotic move and I in now way want to undermine the importance of that, but he wasn’t a superstar, a champion, a household name.
What superstar athlete today would give it all up, Ali was striped of his championship title, and denied the right to fight and earn a living doing what he does. His refusal to join military and go to war to fight against someone he didn’t perceive as an enemy of his, no matter what it cost it personally or professionally separates him from many other great champions, not just in boxing but sports as a whole. He also would not denounce the Nation Of Islam when the government tried to get him to. He even threw his Olympic Gold Medal in a local lake in disgust of this country’s actions.
After being giving the right to fight again professionally, even though he lost quite arguably his best years, he continued to win. He continued to prove he was still a champion. Ali still appears at major events, like the 1996 Olympics.
In 1991, he put his life on the line by going to Saddam Hussein and asking him to release American prisoners. Not to mention when he went to Iran years earlier when President Carter and the United States Government couldn’t negotiate the release of the hostages, Ali went and was successful. To me Ali was the true measure of a champion. Not only for what he did in the confines of the ring but the principles he held on to and how he carried himself outside of the ring. I do not think we will see another champion who would put everyone on hold for a principle, for his beliefs, even if it cost him his career.
What superstar athlete today would put it all on the line for what they believe?