“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.”
In 1954, a 12 year old boy had his bike stolen from him in Louisville, Kentucky. Furious, this boy marched up to a police officer, Joe Martin, and informed him about the recent theft. In the boy’s statement to Officer Martin, he added that he wanted to beat up the thief. Amused and intrigued, Officer Martin smiled and unknowingly said the following enchanted words that were going to change history.
“Well, you better learn how to fight before you start challenging people,”
In addition to being a police officer, Martin also trained young boxers at a local gym. This motivated,the high spirited and dedicated 12 year old boy to begin to get trained, to unravel his skill for Boxing. Under the tutelage of Joe Martin the boy realized his unique boxing talent, which empowered him to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee and soon to become a world living legend we all know as Muhammad Ali.
Both, in and outside the ring, Muhammad Ali has contended many fights to maintain his ground and made sure justice prevails in all circumstances. He has fought many eminent adversaries inside the ring and with the justice system inside the courts, each time emerging victorious.
Though he experienced racial prejudice and discrimination first hand during his childhood and emerging career, Ali never backed down from his goals. He only went at them stronger and harder. For he knew that only with conviction and struggle will he ever be able break the chains of oppression and achieve success in becoming the greatest.
Ali became a Golden Gloves champion in 1959, and became an Olympic gold medalist the following year. Ali won all of his bouts in the 1960’s, the majority of them by knockout. It seemed that there was no stopping Ali and by 1963 Ali had become the heavyweight champion of the world.
In 1967, Ali faced a new adversary, one that did not need to be trained in the art of boxing to go up against Muhammad Ali. For this battle was in the confines of a witness stand of a court room rather than a boxing ring. Muhammad Ali was accused of evading service responsibilities after being drafted during the Vietnam War. His reasons for not wanting to be drafted were far too complex for his accusers to understand. Ali was a practicing Muslim minister and Islam simply forbade him from participating in a war.
Though all charges were eventually dropped against the boxer, professionally Ali suffered a series of blows when the boxing association took away his title and suspended him from the sport for a period of three and a half years.
When Ali returned to the arena in 1970, he swiftly moved up the ladder and instantly fought his way through to once again becoming world heavyweight champion.
At first, all Ali wanted was to be the greatest. So he worked hard and became the greatest the world ever saw in a boxing ring. But that wasn’t enough for Ali. It seems that the world had yet to see Muhammad Ali’s capabilities in different arenas. A new side of his personality was unveiled to the world, when he decided to become a social activist. Ali’s altruistic personality made him a hero in his home city of Louisville. Today there stands a Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of Louisville. This institute is involved in the development of innovative educational programmes, trainings, service and research which combines to support human dignity, foster responsible citizenship and further peace and justice. Three years after retiring from an extremely successful boxing career in 1984, Ali began to battle yet again, this time with Parkinson’s disease. A Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Disease Centre (MAPC) has been set up in Phoenix, Arizona and Ali is involved in raising funds for the research. He does this by organizing a Celebrity Fight Night which has raised more than $45 million for MAPC.
Apart from his efforts to raise funds for MAPC, Ali has been an active participant of the Special Olympics and the Make a wish foundation along with other organizations. His altruistic personality and workmanship in developing countries earned him the role of United Nations Messenger of Peace in 1998.In 1999, Sports Illustrated along with BBC bestowed the title Sportsman of the Century upon Ali.
In 2005 Muhammad Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and that same year he successfully opened the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville. This award-winningcenter is a more than just a museum of Muhammad Ali’s achievements; it is a place of inspiration that people visit to learn about the struggle and triumph of an ordinary boy. Inspiration is what Alihas given to the world.
Joe Martin once said, “He (Ali) Stood out because he had more determination than most boys. He was willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve something worthwhile in sports. It was almost impossible to discourage him. He was easily the hardest worker of any kid that I ever taught”
It is evident that though Muhammad Ali was blessed with the skill of boxing, he would not have reached where is now without the type of mental strength he had learned to develop. During one of his trainings sessions, Ali was heard to have said “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them –a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”
In his lifetime, Ali has faced various struggles. He took on formidable boxers of his time, racial prejudice, religious discrimination and the U.S Government and Parkinson’s disease. It seems that victory has never left his side as he continues to live with the same mental toughness that he once used in the ring to knock out every hurdle that comes his way.
Filled to the brim with courage and compassion, Muhammad Ali truly possesses the heart of a champion.
The journey that started from revenge going towards courage and ending up in altruism, make us realize how one can transform, if it had not been for the policeman, Ali would have never realized the potentials he had, just like we need people to understand us as we understand them. Compassion defines us all.