Every once in a while, we're gifted a legendary human that shapes of perception of a profession or field of endeavor. In boxing, several modern-day gladiators- such as Jack Johnson and Jake LaMotta – can lay claim to altering the sport, but few have possessed the lasting impact of Muhammad Ali. Beyond his physical prowess, Ali was a persona the likes of which boxing- or any American combat sport- had seen at the time.
Learning to polish his silver tongue from pro wrestling legend Gorgeous George, Ali presented a level of showmanship that countless combat sports professionals- from Isreal Adesanya to Tyson Fury- emulate today. However, Ali's larger-than-life persona had the most impact outside of the ring. Through his decision to conscientiously object to the Vietnam war, as well as his stature as one of the most famous American Muslims of the 20th century, Ali became a champion for causes that dwarfed his multiple titles in boxing. Plus, Ali boxed Superman and won; that has to count for something.
Today is Muhammad Ali's birthday, and as a Black American Muslim, it would be a shame if I didn't offer a space to acknowledge and reflect on his influence in pop culture. Happy Birthday, Champ.