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Washington Boxers Recall Legacy of Muhammad Ali

  • Deborah Block

At the Headbangers Gym in Washington, DC, some top amateur and professional boxers are sparring, honing their skills for upcoming fights.

They range in age from 18 to their early 30s, and weren't even born when boxing legend Muhammad Ali was in his prime and winning major heavyweight competitions. But they recall being told about Ali when they were young, like Patrick Harris, who grew up in a boxing family and says Ali's influence on his career is undeniable.

"I have confidence in what I do," says Harris, a professional boxer. And like Ali, "have the mentality that no one can beat me."

Another fighter, Anthony Peterson, says Ali's self-assurance and love for the sport showed him to "never be afraid of your opponent and to have fun."

Shynggyskhan Tazhibay came to the gym three years ago from Kazakhstan to continue his boxing career in the United States where there are more opportunities.

Back home he watched videos of Ali's fights to learn his techniques.

One of Ali's most famous quotes made an impression on him."I like his leg moves, like 'fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee,'" he says. "That was one of the lessons I learned and I like to move my legs the way he did."

Affect on boxing

Head trainer Barry Hunter appreciates that Ali took boxing to a whole new level and made it into what it is today.

"He changed boxing forever," Hunter told VOA. "He brought the big dollars to boxing. He brought all the star power to boxing. He brought the style to boxing."

Hunter also admires Ali for standing up for his beliefs, especially defying racial oppression. Hunter, who is 53, remembers the U.S. civil rights movement and how Ali made African Americans, like himself, feel proud.

Police officer Tiara Brown, who won a women's Olympic gold medal in boxing in 2012 and a bronze in 2014, considers Ali inspirational. "He was a great athlete," she says. "He motivates us to be all that we can be."

Eighteen-year-old Duke Ragan says Ali was his dad's favorite boxer. My dad "always said that my left hand jab was strong, so I was going to be another Muhammad Ali, just a shorter version."

Keithland King from the Caribbean country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines says what he respects most about Ali is that he was a good man.

"I try to live something like Muhammad Ali," said King. I try to be good to everybody. He was a great, great, great person."

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