3 modern day boxers who were influenced by Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali inspired so many people and continues to do so in death. Here are three boxers who Ali inspired in and out of the ring. 

Muhammad Ali is one of the most influential figures in history. He superseded his status as a boxer and became a humanitarian and defender of social justice and human rights.

A new PBS documentary directed by Ken Burns called Muhammad Ali examines his impact on society and his lasting importance on the world. The documentary premieres on Sunday, Sept. 19 at 8/7c.

In the ring, many boxers credit Ali as the reason they became boxers. They fell in love with the sport because of him, and many adopted his unique boxing style. Here are three boxers who Ali highly influenced.

1. Roy Jones Jr.

Roy Jones Jr. is one of the best boxers of all time, but he lists Ali as one of his biggest influences.

Watching prime Jones in the boxing ring, it’s no surprise that Jones idolized Ali growing up. Jones’s unorthodox style mimics Ali’s. Like Ali, Jones utilized his speed, reflexes, and footwork to defeat opponents.

During the 90s, Jones used his physical gifts during his reign as middleweight, super middleweight, and light heavyweight champion. He even won the WBA heavyweight title in a David vs. Goliath battle against the much larger John Ruiz.

“I mean, I grew up wanting to box because of him,” said Jones of Ali to the Pensacola News Journal. “He meant everything to me. I’m just thankful that God blessed me to spend time with the person who influenced me the most. God guided me to what my purpose in life was.”

2. Joe Calzaghe

Joe Calzaghe doesn’t receive enough praise for his excellence in the ring. The Welshman dominated the super middleweight division for a decade using an Ali-like boxing style. He defeated Jeff Lacy, Mikkel Kessler, and Chris Eubank throughout his undefeated 15-year professional boxing career.

With his hands held low, Calzaghe eluded punches with easy and struck opponents with fast hands and deserves credit as one of the best super middleweights in history.

After Ali’s passing in 2016, Calzaghe discussed Ali’s impact on his career with the BBC.

“In a 1,000 years’ time, people will look back and say he was the greatest,” Calzaghe told the BBC.

“He is the greatest boxing and greatest sporting icon of all time. He was my inspiration. I tried to copy some of his moves as soon as I started boxing at the age of 10 or 11.”

3. Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in 1986 at the age of 20. Tyson gained the moniker of “Baddest man on the planet” because of his tremendous punching power.

Tyson didn’t resemble Ali in terms of physical stature or fighting style, but Tyson was in awe of Ali’s fighting spirit and boxing expertise.

“I don’t give a f**k, but that’s the part where Ali overshines me because I can’t understand a man that’s willing to die for this,” Tyson told the Undisputed Champion Network (h/t Sportbible.com). ” I talked the sh*t, but he’s the real deal.

“Ali is a giant. There’s no way other fighters can match him. He’d die for this sh*t. I’m not going to die for this. That’s real talk. Ali is a savage. He’s an animal. He’s a different breed of person. He’s not like us.”

Like Ali, Tyson is a Muslim, and the two shared a religious bond. Tyson used to visit Ali, and the two would pray together. Tyson has also described how he used to visit Ali and hold his hand. It’s fair to say that Ali was Tyson’s hero.

The four-part Ken Burns documentary, Muhammad Ali, premieres on Sunday, Sept. 19 at 8/7c on PBS.