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Mohammed Ali

« G.O.A.T. » 100cm x 100cm acrylics and spray paint on stretched canvas.

This portrait depicts the legendary boxing champion and Olympic gold medalist Muhammed Ali.

Not only was he famous for fighting in boxing rings and becoming one of the greatest boxers in history, but also for his fight as a vocal activist for civil rights, and becoming a symbol of the civil rights movement.

In 1966, the US government increased the number of men drafted to serve in the military during the Vietnam war. The Pentagon (US Department of Defence) confirmed that a disproportionate number of African American men were drafted. The group constituted of 32% of American frontline combatants in Vietnam, even though African American’s only made up 11% of the American population.

Ali declared that he has no intention to serve in Vietnam, stating that he had no reason to fight against the Vietnamese forces, as he “ain’t got no quarrel” with them. “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while [black] people in Louisville are treated like dogs?... If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 Million of my people, they wouldn’t have to draft me. I’d join tomorrow… We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

His refusal and resistance resulted in a five-year sentence in prison and stripped him of his boxing license. While he was heavily criticized in the media, he was supported by high-profile African American athletes. He also had a growing force of the rising civil rights movement behind him.

While his boxing license was suspended during the appeal, Ali visited universities across the States to vocalize his support for civil rights, bringing immense attention to the cause.

Ali’s boxing license was restored in 1970, and he was able to reassert his status in boxing while cementing himself as a civil rights icon.

Two of my favourite quotes of his:

  1. “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
  2. “The man who has no imagination has no wings.”
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