Float Like A Butterfly

In memory of Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)

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This robe and headgear, worn by Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) while training at the 5th Street Gym in Miami, Florida, exemplifies his unwavering dedication to being "The Greatest." Ali’s conversion to Islam occurred during his training time in Miami in the 1960s. It was during this period that he shed his birth name, Cassius Clay, and adopted the name, Muhammad Ali. This terry cloth robe, with Ali’s name sewn on the back in large black letters, both reveals and conceals the fighter’s identity and prowess.

Training robe worn by Muhammad Ali at the 5th Street Gym, 1964

Training robe worn by Muhammad Ali at the 5th Street Gym, 1964. 2012.173.1ab

While at the pinnacle of his career, Ali was drafted into the military but refused to report for duty because of his consciousness as a Muslim minister and his own personal convictions. Ali was a person who practiced at being great not only while wearing training gear but also while striving for greatness in living a life dedicated to making his world better. Outspoken, and often criticized for what many saw as divisive language, Ali remained true to his principles throughout his life. His legacy continues to inspire everyone, from athletes to school children, to find their own greatness. His training headgear is a reminder that being great at something doesn’t come without practice, perseverance and willpower.

Boxing headgear worn by Muhammad Ali

Boxing headgear worn by Muhammad Ali, ca. 1973. 2010.19.1

I’m always going to be one black one who got big on your white televisions and 100% stayed with representing my people. That was my purpose and I’m showing the world that you can be here and still free and stay yourself and get respect from the world.

Muhammad Ali World Champion Boxer

Written by Katie Knowles, cataloger
Published June 7, 2016; updated Jan. 28, 2019

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