“A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” –Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali’s life was about transformation.
Transformation from a scrawny kid in a Louisville boxing gym to an Olympic gold medal winner (and eventually the heavyweight champion of the world). Transformation from a brash young fighter named Cassius Clay to a conscientious activist named Muhammad Ali, whose biggest fight turned out to be for something bigger than a heavyweight title.
You can trace Ali’s evolution—and see how the country changed in innumerable ways around him—at the Muhammad Ali Center, a cultural center and museum in the boxer’s hometown of Louisville.
The museum tells the story of Ali’s life through videos, artifacts and interactive displays. Learn about everything from the incident that led him to boxing as a 12-year-old (he wanted to learn how to fight the thief who stole his bicycle) to his involvement with Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. Spend a little more time looking, and you’ll find Ali’s Presidential Medal of Freedom to the torch he used to light the Olympic flame in Atlanta in 1996.
Oh yeah, he was a pretty good boxer, too, and fight fans will find plenty to see and do at the museum as well. Grab a seat and watch any of Ali’s bouts on demand. Peruse the display cases to see or see some of his fight memorabilia, including a sequined robe given to him by Elvis Presley.
Want to see how you stack up against The Greatest in boxing? Visit the recreation of Ali’s Deer Lake, Pennsylvania, training camp (the actual one was sold on eBay for $4.3 million) and try to keep up with his shadowboxing routine. You can also practice your rhythm on the speed bag and feel the power of an Ali punch on the heavy bag.
Know before you go
The roughly 15-minute video—or “three-screen experience,” as they call it at the museum—held in the theater at the entrance to the museum is optional, but it’s definitely worth your time. Closed on Mondays. Open Tuesday-Saturday from 9:30am-5:00pm, Sunday from 12:00pm-5:00pm.
There are a lot of reasons to respect Muhammad Ali: as a boxer, as a fighter for civil rights, as a global humanitarian. The Muhammad Ali Center paints a full portrait of the man and his times. It shouldn’t be missed.