New Ali centre meant to inspire others

While the Muhammad Ali Centre that opened in Louisville, Kentucky, on Monday pays tribute to the legendary boxer’s life, it is people such as Mexican physician Scott Shelton it seeks to inspire as a living legacy.

An education and outreach portion of the centre is aimed at sparking people to achieve their dreams and reach their potential, but Shelton needed only Ali’s example to help overcome his troubles and fulfil his destiny.

“Muhammad Ali inspired me to become a doctor. Now I’m taking care of the poor and orphans in Mexico,” Shelton said after his tour of the museum.

“Many times I wanted to quit. Muhammad Ali gave me the courage to keep going.
I watched The Greatest and figured if he could go through what he did, I can get through my problems too.”

Ali’s struggle to overcome prejudice with flamboyance and charisma, his sacrifices over refusal to fight in the Vietnam War and his heavyweight boxing triumphs made him a global legend whose story, retold here, excited visitors from around the world.

“It’s amazing. It’s great. He was willing to suffer for his beliefs. He is inspirational,” Shelton said.

“Smiley” Wilson was weeping, overcome with emotion as she stood inside the exhibit on Ali’s fight against racism.

“It’s just so special,” she said. “I can feel it and see it too. I just feel a spirit in here. He just came along at a special time. It took so long. But it’s just wonderful. It’s an amazing place.”

She proudly boasted of her nearby address on Muhammad Ali Boulevard as she displayed her prized copy of a 1974 record about Ali by Johnny Wikela and the Kinshasa Band called Black Superman, with the lyrics: “I’m Ali, the black Superman, I’m Ali, catch me if you can.”

Irishman Hussain Yazdani (20) flew from Dublin just to be here on the first day the centre was open to the public.

“I’m just a major fan. I had to come,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. People need to see this. It’s some place they can learn about what he went through, the sacrifices he made. You’ll see people from around the world travel to be here.”

Yazdani discovered Ali just a couple of years ago and said those who did not see Ali’s glory days in their lifetime need to visit the centre to discover his true impact in sport and society.

“Kids growing up these days don’t understand. This shows what separates Ali from the rest,” he said. “You look at the conditions, the things he went through outside the ring. That’s why I think there will never be another Ali.”

Victoria McGruder, from nearby Shelbyville, saw Ali as an example of what a lone person can accomplish with courage and desire.

“It shows how one man can make a difference,” she said. “To show how Muhammad Ali was something special is great. He’s hard working, very dedicated. He’s able to show other people they have a chance to achieve their dreams.”

Sherry Navarro, of Louisville, put Ali’s place against such modern sports stars as Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan in perspective, saying: “He’s the superstar those superstars look up to.”

Shelton refused to proclaim himself as a tribute to Ali equal to that on display in the museum despite the impact Ali had upon his life.

“Not until I help my millions of people,” Shelton said. “I’m just the instrument. He really was the greatest.”—Sapa-AFP