Black Legends in Sports Entertainment: Boxing and the Impact of Ali

The sport of boxing for black boxers were personally influenced by racial injustice, instigated white riots and bias white press that only wrote crime news about blacks including any famous black athletes that encountered trouble with the law. During the rise of black boxers getting notoriety, from the beginning of the 20th Century, black legendary heavyweight boxers like Jack Jackson, once accused and arrested for violating the Mann Act and Joe Louis, who ran into legal issues with the IRS, paved the way for Muhammad Ali, who was convicted for willful refusal to submit to induction into the Armed Forces, continued the trailblazing legacy of black boxers whose image, sportsmanship and influence impacted the United States of America’s pop culture.

Since boxing is one of America’s oldest sport, even during a time when black people were being lynched, lawfully falsely accused with harsher penalties, and disrespected as a human being whose was considered a second class citizen due to racial discrimination across the world. During this phase in the United States of America, blacks were not respected as people in general but being a public black figure, like a black athlete for example, were treated a little better unless their reputation was in jeopardy and it made news in a negative way.

Jack Johnson is known to be the first black boxer to win a heavyweight championship and held this title from 1908 -1915, next another black boxer by the name of Joe Louis held the title from 1937 – 1949, and then Muhammad Ali held the title from 1932 – 1970.


Ali became a famed and well-respected black boxer and he was known as, “The People’s Champ.” Ali, like the other black boxers before him, seemed to all be packed with diverse personality, fashion, style and poetic boasts. They’re personalities and charismatic attitudes towards using boxing are all similar in ways to how they drew an audience of fans, and people that admired them for being standouts in the sport of boxing.

Known as the most popular boxer of all time, Muhammad Al’s initial attitude, experience and desire to fight, came from his expressed feelings of dealing with ways to fight back when he was being bullied over a bike that was taken. Not knowing that fighting was a way for him to be introduced to professional boxing and learn the techniques to fighting. While still a young boy, it came in handy to get advice and guidance from a police officer and boxing trainer. This same officer who took young Ali’s, then named Cassius Clay’s police report from that stolen bike incident, lead him to boxing training.

During his adult career, Muhammad Ali’s heavyweight title is mostly known from him professionally boxing Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964 in Miami Beach, Florida.  At that time, Angelo Dundee, was the original owner who opened the famed 5th Street Gym, where Ali trained. He made Miami home and local residence of the black communities like Overtown and Liberty City’s Hampton House, carry clear memories of him walking the streets in the community, talking to people and even training around town.

Ali made it no secret that he wanted to use his celebrity profile to help black people’s environmental, social and economic disparity issues within this country and abroad. As he expressively voiced his concerns which were often intellectually verbalized, he captured the attention of local, state, and international leaders. At the same time, he was building a closer relationship between black communities by communicating their concerns publically in the media and on a national level. He is a black figure that represents black pride, culture and awareness across the world and used boxing to promote himself as a dominant leader whose earned his respect.

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