The Greatest Boxing Activist

It has been 8 years since three-time heavyweight champion, Olympic gold-medalist and American hero Muhammad Ali passed away, and he continues to remind us of the battles people like him had faced and still face in America. Ali lived a colorful life, fought for individual freedom in the truest sense of the word, and left behind a boxing legacy that, in his own words, “won’t be seen again in our generation… not for another 200, 400 years.”

Muhammad Ali with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., getting interviewed
Photo Credit: KPBS

He fought against injustice and braced the consequences like a champion to save the lives of minorities. When he refused to fight in the Vietnam war, he was barred from competing in boxing, but he was relentless and declared, “I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over.”

He stood up for black lives and was a major proponent and leader for the Civil Rights Movement. He worked and rallied with incredible leaders and activists like Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Understanding that he had the power to change things because of his popularity, he spoke out on many instances not only for black lives, but also for Muslims who were targeted after 9/11. Through his schedule, it’s clear that he sought balance in his daily life just as much as he sought balance in the world.

Muhammad Ali’s Daily Routine:

  • 4:30AM – Wake Up, Shower and Pray
  • 5:30AM – Run for 6 miles in heavy boots
  • 7AM – Breakfast of eggs, toast, 100% orange juice & lots of water
  • 9AM – Late-morning Movie
  • 11AM – Nap
  • 12:30PM – Physical Training
  • 4PM – Massage
  • 5PM – Dinner of chicken, steak, green beans, potatoes & fruit
  • 6PM – Evening Walk
  • 7PM – Shower and Pray
  • 8PM – Watch TV and Relax
  • 10PM – Bedtime

Early Morning

Ali started each morning with prayer and a long outdoor run, or “roadwork” in boxing parlance. Running was a core part of his training – endurance and ability to maintain stamina through 15 rounds was a key advantage for a heavyweight. He used heavy boots to increase the leg workout. Ali enjoyed running and would choose it frequently over public transportation.

Afternoon Workout

Ali worked out six days a week, and would train anywhere between two to fourteen weeks ahead of a fight. “I hated every minute of training but I said, ‘Don’t quit, suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

Muhammad Ali boxing in the ring and hitting his opponent
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Ali spent his early days training at the 5th Street Gym in Miami, Florida. Surprisingly, Ali relied on calisthenic training more than weight lifting. Jumping rope was a staple part of his workout, with around 10-20 dedicated minutes. Many considered him to be one of the best jump ropers in boxing and believed that it aided his quickness in the ring.

A Healthy Appetite

Muhammad Ali had a solid appetite and loved hamburgers. He actually opened up a chain of hamburger restaurants called ChampBurger in his former home state of Florida.

Ahead of his time, he ate wholesome and nutritious food always with protein. For him, this could have been chicken, steak, vegetables, fruit, and grains. Muhammad Ali prided himself on never drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes. After victories, he would celebrate with friends and family over orange juice at home and keep his bedtime.


Ali strived to pray five times a day to abide by his Islamic faith, but typically averaged twice a day – once at dawn and a second time at dusk. In keeping with his religion, he would be sure to shower each time before prayer to make sure he was clean from head to toe. His favorite downtime activity was watching TV. He loved watching his old fights, especially the Thrilla in Manilla and Rumble in the Jungle. Other times he would opt for baseball or basketball games.

Muhammad Ali praying, kneeling on a mat with his head bowed down
Photo Credit: Ring Magazine

Rest in Power

Muhammad was not just a fighter in the ring, but outside as well. Standing up for his rights, he refused to participate in what he felt was an unjust Vietnam War. His efforts to stand against the establishment was a big symbolic win for the Civil Rights Movement. He preached for racial unity and spent his retirement working vigorously for multiple charities. Even though he is not with us today, his words and actions continue to inspire many and remind us to keep fighting against injustice even outside the boxing ring.

Especially now, Muhammad Ali’s words will remind us why we are fighting for justice: “Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”

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