3 Things Cassius Clay taught a girl who knows nothing about boxing…Before becoming Muhammad Ali…


Muhammad Ali Picture 2

1-What they stole from you, will push into your destiny…

When Cassius Clay was 12 years old, he was gifted a bike that was eventually stolen from him. He decided to report the bike as stolen and went down to the local police department where he told Police Offer Joe Martin (who was also a boxing coach) that he was going to “whup the thief that stole his bike”, to which Officer Martin replied, “You better learn to box then” and thus, his intro to the world of boxing and a new life. Side note, the bike nor the thief ever materialized.

Reading this particular snippet about Cassius Clay (his name at that time), really made me think about life and what I felt had been “taken” or “stolen” from me. At one point in life, I had what felt like a great job with security, making good money, a nice 401k plan and insurance benefits and then one day I felt like it was snatched and stolen from me. And I was angry… and deep down, not quite sure how I would recover from it. There were many days when I asked myself, “Who AM I without that job? What is my identity? How will I get to the next phase of my life without my job as transportation?” I too wanted to “whup” the betrayers who stole my job, and then I realized, “I had to learn to fight…in the spirit.” See, it wasn’t about the people who I believed betrayed me but it was about what GOD needed FROM me that would actually turn out to be good FOR me. I had been feeling unfulfilled, not satisfied and uncomfortable in the job I was in for a while, however, I wouldn’t have just up and left and gave the company their job back. So it was snatched from under me, so that I would have no choice but to move into a new part of life that required me to totally trust, have faith and completely depend on GOD for a future I couldn’t even see just yet. I had to learn to fight. My prayer life grew which built my stamina to be able to survive 12 rounds in the ring of sadness, depression and fear of the unknown. My study time in my bible learning GOD’s word, became the blows that I would use to knockdown the enemy and defeat anything that tried to come against me. My motto became Psalms 144:1, “Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight…” I was a fighter…

2-A man given title symbolizes just that…A title…nothing more

In the 1960 Olympics held in Rome, Cassius Clay was given the title Light heavyweight champion and given an Olympic Gold medal as a symbol that was supposed to be reflective of his title. And it was said that he was proud of this medal, and wore it all the time. Then came the day when upon his return back to the USA, Olympic Gold medalist Cassius Clay’s 6ft. 3-inch frame wrapped in muscles the color of cinnamon honey, with a smile just as pretty, decided he wanted to eat at a small diner. A diner located in Ohio which was again, in the same country whose medal hung around his neck swinging with each commanding step he took. And he was refused service because of the color of his skin. He was refused service because of who he was, a black man. And so the tale goes on that he was so angry that he took off the medal and threw it over a bridge into the Ohio river. He claimed “he didn’t want to wear a medal in a country where he couldn’t be served.” It was also told that he later said he “lost” the medal. But either way, the reality that he was refused service in a country that he represented as a champion, had to be a blow to him, and yet he never wavered in what he believed about himself and surely never came up short in the arena of self-esteem.

Although I have never been given the title of Olympic Champion along with a gold medal, I have been given man made titles throughout various occasions of my life. One of those titles was “Employee of the year.” Now, you would have had to work where I used to in order to truly and fully understand what that title, along with the plaque that came with it meant. At the beginning of January, ballots would come out and you had to vote for office employee of the year and field (technician) employee of the year. And there was SUCH a buildup and excitement of the announcement, that always took place at the big holiday party with everyone and their spouses/friends/coworkers dressed in their finest and held in a hotel ballroom. It was like the Olympic ceremonies but for work. And then one year, it was different. The year yours truly (yes me,) won this coveted symbol. During a regular work day, a meeting was held in the conference room for all of the administrative staff that was present and a speech was given by the president of vices stating, “Going forward, we don’t want the focus of the holiday party to be just about the employee of the year. We don’t want people upset and not enjoying themselves at a beautiful party after the announcement. We want everyone to have a good time, so we will announce it here.” And just like that, my name was called and I was given my plaque and we all went back to our desks. I was then pulled aside and told, “We will mention your name at the party but again we don’t want that to be the focus of the party. This is how we are going to do it from here on out” Hhhmmmm…. Okkayyy. And yet, the following year and years after, they went back to their way of announcing the winner at the party.

I was really disappointed for a while. I felt like my hard work and dedication to the company had earned me the votes to represent them and the right to be honored and respected. At yet, they were more concerned with offending others…because it was me. And while I didn’t take my plaque and throw it into the Baltimore River, (that would have required me standing on the bridge, like, not sitting in a car…ummm no way…), I realized that titles and plaques that are given to you by man can sometimes mean nothing and that I couldn’t allow myself to let the titles bestowed to me by man, become the bricks that built my self-worth. Because those same people could also become the hammer and chisel, breaking you down until you are in pieces. Those same people who chose you today, may not choose you tomorrow. And while I know that Cassius Clay’s issue was about the color of his skin, the color of his skin was who he was and who he was made them uncomfortable, just like who I AM may make others uncomfortable. But I, Taria, was chosen by GOD. In John 15:16 GOD reminds me, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” I AM a Winner…

3-You can make history…just keep moving

On February 24th, 1964, Cassius Clay’s 210-pound ego & voice entered a room full of sports writers who had their pens on his opponent, Sonny Liston to win…Cassius spent so much energy shouting how great he was that he ended being fined $2,500 by the commission and the fight that would cement this great fighter in history, almost didn’t come to be. Due to Cassius’ elevated heart rate and blood pressure brought on by his extreme taunting of Sonny Liston, the fight was in danger of being canceled if his heart rate and blood pressure did not get back to normal. They did. The fight went on and at one point in the 4th round he started complaining that there was something burning in his eyes and he couldn’t see. Angelo Dundee, his trainer said, “I get the sponge and I pour the water into his eyes trying to cleanse whatever’s there, but before I did that I put my pinkie in his eye and I put it into my eye. It burned. There was something caustic in both eyes.” Cassius Clay later said he could, “only see a faint shadow of Liston during most of the round” but by “circling and moving he managed to avoid Liston and somehow survive.” But by the sixth round, he said he had regained his sight and went on to win the fight. Cassius Clay defied all the odds and the predictions against him and showed that the impossible could be done…The Son could be eclipsed. And he gave other boxers hope…One could say that in that moment, he became a legend…He was the Champion…

I am not a boxer, but I am a fighter, and there are times in life when I feel like life is bigger than me and stronger than me and will knock me down before I reach my dreams and catch them. But then I remember, WHO I am and WHOSE I am. I remember who trained me and who my corner man is, the one who breathed the very life that I am living, into me. And I know that I must keep fighting for everything GOD promised me and my family. On the days when life seems so heavy and tears burn my eyes and blur my vision, I remember, Taria, just keep moving, because you can’t allow the enemy to take your vison, or you’ll perish. Keep moving.

 I want to encourage anyone who feels like you are up against a situation that seems bigger then you, that seems stronger than you, a dream that seems impossible to attain and naysayers are standing ring side waiting for you to fall down, think on Luke 10:19 “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” You ARE a Champion…

I love you guys and thank you for reading!

 “I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was. I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.”-Muhammad Ali



128 thoughts on “3 Things Cassius Clay taught a girl who knows nothing about boxing…Before becoming Muhammad Ali…

  1. Tammey Holley says:

    Thank you for this!! A great way to honor Mihammad Ali today. Very encouraging indeed. Your transparency is breathtakingly refreshing! Please let me know when your book is published. You are THE GREATEST!♡

    • Taria Shondell says:

      Hi TammEY!!! Thank you so much for reading☺️ Thank you so much for responding to my story the way you did! His quotes have always been an inspiration for me! I used to have some of them written on yellow sticky notes on my desk at work.

  2. Danjuma says:

    good way to write, i am appreciate the fact that you were direct in this post… thank you for sharing and also for honoring ALI… truly he was the greatest of all champions.

    • Taria Shondell says:

      Hi Priscilla! Thank you for reading this!
      Yes you are so right! It is almost like we forget who gave us the things in the first place! I try & constantly remind myself!

  3. Amy says:

    An insightful and though provoking read, Taria! It’s so true and a nice way to honor someone else while still seeking self improvement!

  4. mrtomjames.com says:

    Ali’s life may have ended but his legacy will live on, not only did he fight in the ring but he also fought out of it advocating for a better world for the black community. Born into a life of segregation he exited with integration being a major public speaker, he changed the world.

  5. Matt Richards says:

    Love this Taria. Thanks. There’s been a lot of blog posts and mailouts (myself included) the last few days about the great man but none I’ve read have been as personal and deep as this.

  6. lakisha says:

    I also do not know much about boxing but I respect Ali for the amazing athlete and man he was. I remember hearing about the story of him being turned away from a restaurant because of race and thinking damn I guess no amount of fame or success can change how “they” felt about Black people those days.

  7. Cesi Kohen says:

    This is very insightful, thank you for sharing. It is indeed easy sometimes to over-glorify titles, find justification in awards. It is how one carries oneself is what matters

  8. LaKisha Riddick says:

    I love this!!! I love the life lessons you’ve learned and how you compared them to Muhammad Ali’s life story. Brilliant!!! “On the days when life seems so heavy and tears burn my eyes and blur my vision, I remember, Taria, just keep moving, because you can’t allow the enemy to take your vison, or you’ll perish. Keep moving. ” YES!!! Keep moving forward!!! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Sara G. says:

    I love how Muhammad Ali’s life story and decision have influenced so many people. We’re all Muhammad Ali! The article is a great tribute to his memory.

  10. annalisanuttall says:

    Thank you for this – my dad back in the 70s actually did some work with Muhammad Ali. My dad had he own publishing/printing company and worked with him on creating a leaflet for a box match somewhere. My dad said he was very quiet but direct. Even now my dad wasdead chuffed about working with him. xx


  11. Anosa says:

    Luke 10:19 definitely speaks to me and thanks for this amazing post. Don’t give up on life and fight with God is my motto

  12. mariewikle says:

    We all spend so much time dwelling on what we aren’t that we quickly forget what we truly are! We need to remind ourselves daily how amazing God created us to be.

  13. lastchance3 says:

    Wow! this is an incredible read! You definitely did a fantastic job of bringing someone who seems bigger than life down to our level. We all have that greatness within; it’s just what we do with the potential and how we focus ourselves. He truly was an inspiration.

    • Taria Shondell says:

      Hi Lastchance3! Thank you so much! And thank you for reading! Yes, we were all created to be great in whatever area we are in! We just have to remember that, even when we are in the midst of adversity.

  14. NM says:

    Such a powerful write, I feel so empowered after reading this! Such great lessons and reminders, things we should keep in minds every single day. The Muhammed Ali reference, was just perfection!

  15. soulsensecoaching says:

    That is shocking, Taria, about your Employee of the Year Award. What dismal behaviour from a whole bunch of people. I had no idea that was Mohammed Ali’s name so thanks for the education. You are a fighter and keep on fighting the good fight.

  16. Ana De Jesus says:

    You know what, you are so right, learning to fight even if your world is crumbling is the only option of survival. Losing your job is tough and trust me I know but it does not define who you are as a person.

  17. Liz Mays says:

    It’s great that he’s been such an inspiration to you. It really is difficult to know what direction to head in when something huge changes in your life. Finding a direction to keep moving in is important.

  18. Nina says:

    What an inspiring post. Sometimes things change in life and sometimes unexpectedly I believe that everything happens for a reason. Life is in a way about fighting, fighting through the bad to come out the other side stronger. Good post well done

  19. Joanna says:

    I am not religious and I believe that we are the ones in control of our success. If we really want to achieve success we have to fight and work hard for it. Same as Muhammad Ali did.

    • Taria Shondell says:

      Hi Joanna! Thank you for your comment! And thank you for reading! I’m not religious either… I just follow GOD…. And I depend on him for the strength I need to fight through. Muhammad Ali was an awesome inspirational man! For sure!

  20. Keith Haney says:

    What a powerful post. Interesting how you took the life and accomplishments of Ali and used that through GOD’s word to find strength and chart your own path. Nicely done weaving those two accounts together.

  21. Jolina says:

    Thank you for this inspiring post. My friends and I always say when one of is feeling particularly down to not worry as our lives are in God’s hands. What can be better than that? 🙂

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