Three times world heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammad Ali, passed away recently at the age of 74 and the world mourned his death. In a sport tainted by eccentric and dubious characters such as Floyd Mayweather – often dogged by allegations of domestic abuse – and ear-biter Mike Tyson, Ali has been a shining example of how a boxer should behave.
Shortly after winning his first world championship at the tender age of 22, Muhammad Ali began fighting for world peace and civil rights. He denounced the Vietnam War and was stripped of his medals for refusing to be drafted. Despite the controversy, Muhammad Ali stayed true to his beliefs.
He gave public talks on racism and discrimination and consistently upheld the need for inter-faith relations and civil rights. Ali did not just talk the talk. He walked the walk. He helped deliver more than $1 million in medical aid to Cuba and hand delivered food and medical supplies to the disadvantaged in Indonesia, Mexico and other impoverished nations.
His passion for philanthropy became as widely known as his boxing career. His effort did not go unnoticed. Ali was the recipient of many awards including Amnesty International’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Presidential Citizens Medal from the US government.
While he has been declared the greatest boxer who ever lived, and his philanthropy has touched millions of lives, there was one battle Ali could not win. Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the early 80s and he has struggled against it since then. He even founded the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center to help raise funds for those afflicted with the disease. It was not enough. Muhammad Ali was supposed to be a flag bearer at the 2012 Olympics in London but Parkinsons had crippled him to the point that he was unable to carry the flag.
His condition deteriorated and soon Ali was at the end of his lifeline. At death, Muhammad Ali can claim one last victory. He had always wanted to be remembered as more than a three-times world champion boxer and now the world remembers him for his philanthropy as much as for his illustrious boxing career.