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Remembering Muhammad Ali

The life of Muhammad Ali

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To celebrate the life of Muhammad Ali, who died on 3 June, 2016.

Preparation and materials

  • You may wish to show the YouTube video, ‘Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony’, which shows Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic torch (available at: It is 1.35 minutes long.


  1. During the past few days, the news has been full of stories about a certain athlete who died on 3 June, 2016.

    Ask if any of the students can name the athlete.

  2. The name of the athlete is Muhammad Ali. Although Muhammad Ali’s main sporting achievements happened in the 1960s and 1970s, he is still well-known around the world. During today’s assembly, we are going to spend some time thinking about his life and the lessons that we can learn from it.

  3. Show the image of Muhammad Ali as a child.

    Muhammad Ali was born in Kentucky in the USA on 17 January, 1942. His original name was Cassius Clay, but he changed his name in 1964 when he became a Muslim, and he was known by the name Muhammad Ali for the rest of his life.

  4. Show the image of Muhammad Ali as a young man.

    When Muhammad Ali was 12 years old, his bike was stolen. When he said that he wanted to punish the thief, a police officer suggested that he should learn how to fight properly and Muhammad began to train at the police officer’s gym. This was the start of his boxing career.

  5. Show the image of Muhammad Ali as a boxer.

    In 1960, Muhammad was selected for the US Olympic boxing team and went on to win the light heavyweight gold medal. From then on, Muhammad Ali had many amazing victories, which led him to refer to himself as ‘the Greatest’.

  6. In 1966, Muhammad was called up to join the US army to fight in the Vietnam War. Muhammad refused to fight in this war and declared himself a conscientious objector. His refusal to serve in the army led to him being banned from competing for the USA and sentenced to spend time in prison. Muhammad never actually went to prison, and fought against his conviction. In 1971, the conviction was overturned and he was allowed to start boxing again.

  7. In the 1970s, Muhammad Ali won many boxing matches and he became the first boxer to win the heavyweight championships three times. He retired from the sport in 1981. (You may wish to show some highlights of Muhammad Ali’s career.)

  8. In 1984, Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive, degenerative disease of the nervous system. It involves limb tremors and muscular problems, which impair movement. Eventually, the disease can become very debilitating. Having Parkinson’s disease must have been difficult for a great sporting champion to cope with, but it led him to set up the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Centre. Muhammad Ali worked hard to raise funds for the Centre and for many other charities.

    Show the recent picture of Muhammad Ali.

    Despite his illness, Muhammad Ali visited numerous countries to help those in need. In 1998, he was chosen to be a United Nations Messenger of Peace because of his work.

  9. Muhammad Ali is widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers in history. He is also known as one of the greatest sports people. In 1996, he was given the honour of lighting the Olympic torch for the Olympic Games in Atlanta.

    Show the image of Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic torch at the 1996 Olympic Games, or play the YouTube video, ‘Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony’ (available at: if you prefer.

  10. Throughout his career, Muhammad Ali was famous for his boxing, but also for his use of language. Here are three of his most famous quotations.

    - ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.’
    - ‘He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.’
    - ‘The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.’

    Ask the students to think about each quotation.

Time for reflection

Muhammad Ali is a great sporting legend. His battle with Parkinson’s disease was perhaps the greatest fight of his life.
Muhammad Ali was courageous. His statement that ‘He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life’ is well-known. Think about that quotation for a moment.

What about our lives?

Are we courageous?

Do we give up easily or do we press forward, despite the knockbacks that we might receive?

Dear God,
We thank you for the life of
Muhammad Ali.
We thank you for his amazing talent.
We thank you for the courage he has shown in difficult times.
We thank you for all the work he did in recent years to help those in need.
We pray that you will be close to his family and friends at this sad time.
Please help us to be people of courage.

Publication date: June 2016   (Vol.18 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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