For those who were fortunate enough to have met Muhammad Ali in his prime, there’s no mistaking Ibn Ali’s resemblance. The Champ’s nephew, now 38, has the walk, certainly the talk, and – most of all – the confidence of his world-renowned uncle.
After a late-in-life conversation with Muhammad and serving as a pallbearer at his funeral, Ibn made the decision to come home to Louisville.
“I got to spend some time with him, and he said, ‘When it’s all said and done go back to Louisville, Kentucky, the best city in the world,’ ” Ibn says. “He told me to come back and show the world love, teach them that we need each other and do that through the gift of boxing. So I’m back home in Louisville and ready to get this city on fire.”
Ibn, who won the world cruiserweight title in 2006, began giving boxing lessons at the Jewish Community Center in July. He said the classes aren’t designed to put people on track for a professional boxing career, but instead should help them instill healthy habits, fitness and confidence. Students as young as 5 years old can sign up.
“You can come in here and learn the basics of boxing, about strength and discipline, but you’re also going to learn how to love more deeply, and love each other,” he says. “We’re going to instill all of that. We’re going to show you how great you really are deep within.”
Ibn said he was deeply moved by the city’s honoring of his uncle after his death. He was living in St. Louis, and had already considered moving back to where his roots are. He had a conversation with Mayor Greg Fischer, who told him the city needed him. That cemented his decision.
During the I Am Ali Festival a year after his uncle’s death, Ibn spoke about his favorite of his uncle’s six core principles: confidence.
“When you first come in, you’re going to get encouraged,” he says. “You’re going to engage in something that’s going to change your life. You’re going to learn to not give up. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re going to meet you at an easy level.”
It may seem that extreme confidence could be hereditary, especially if you compare Ibn today with tapes of Muhammad giving press conferences in his prime. But Ibn believes it comes from a different source.
“My confidence comes from God above, from understanding who I am and who I’m supposed to be,” he says.