Story Power: Muhammad Ali’s Work Boots

A story about the importance of struggle and perserverence comes from Allen Bailey, founder and manager of the Harlem Gospel Choir, as we collaborate on his  upcoming memoir: Singing God’s Work: The Inspirational Music, People and Stories of the Harlem Gospel Choir, York House Press, September, 2009.  One of Allen’s favorite recollections is of his involvement in coordinating world-class entertainment for the 1974 Muhammad Ali-George Foreman fight in Zaire, the so-called “Rumble in the Jungle”.

Allen recalls his trips out to Ali’s training camp in Pennsylvania. The discipline and determination of the young boxing champ made a strong impression on Bailey. “No matter if it was snow, sleet or shine,” Allen recalls, “Ali was up every morning at the crack of dawn for his daily run. Those of us hanging at the camp had two choices come dawn: accompany Ali on the run, or stay behind to chop wood and fetch well water. Running with Ali was an exercise in humility. We all ran in lightweight sneakers, but Ali outran us in heavy work boots.”

Ali’s strategy was clear: after months of struggle, running in work boots, he would feel fleet-footed in the boxing ring when he faced his opponent; able to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Which of us really embraces struggle and sees it as money in the bank paid toward future success? Struggle now can bring reward later. In tough economic or personal times, we are forced to develop fortitude, patience, discipline and vigilance, but these are qualities that pay off down the road. Building up strength and determination now means we can soar past a future winning post. This idea helps us to reframe any current struggle and see it for what it really is: a gift that we get to open later. And speaking of gifts, check out The Painter’s Gift . And look for spring publication of Allen’s Bailey’s memoir “Singing God’s Work” from York House Press.

One thought on “Story Power: Muhammad Ali’s Work Boots

  1. An inspiring story that has me thinking about how our curiosity and intuition can create new, spontaneous associations of seemingly unrelated items or concepts…like work boots and boxing! I look forward to reading this new book.

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