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Oscar De La Hoya: The Best Advice Muhammad Ali Ever Gave Me

3 minute read
De La Hoya is a retired professional boxer

The first time I met The Greatest of All Time—Muhammad Ali—I didn’t know who he was.

I was 6-years-old and living in East Los Angeles, a tough neighborhood plagued by gang violence, with my family in a small apartment. My parents decided it would be good for me to visit the local youth gym to keep me out of trouble and off the streets.

The gym wasn’t even really a gym but rather an old church with the pews removed. The boxing ring was positioned in the same place where the altar for worship once stood.

Ali didn’t say anything to us that day when he walked into the gym. He was alone and dressed in a sweatsuit for training that was fashioned from plastic, carrying a small gym bag. He went to the corner, wrapped his hands and quietly began training. We watched in awe as this towering man went from shadow boxing, to the speed bag, to the heavy bag. Suddenly, he stopped and called out to us: “All you kids! Get over here. I have something to tell you.”

All of us were wide-eyed, not knowing who this man was and what he was going to say. We crowded around him and listened intently.

“Kids, listen to me. It’s good to want to be a champion. I know that’s why you are here and why you work hard. But, never forget: It doesn’t matter what happens inside the ring; what matters is what you do outside the ring.”

All of us where surprised. We hadn’t heard this before. We all wanted to become champions, to make money and leave our rough neighborhood behind.

This was a revolutionary idea for me to hear at such a young age. These few words from Ali had such an impact on me. This became my mantra and has guided how I live my life, how I run my business and what I teach my own kids.

What matters most is the impact you leave on others around you and in your community. Ali lived his life this way. It’s part of the legacy he now leaves behind. It’s how I strive to live my life to this day. And it’s the same message I share every time I go back to my old neighborhood and speak with the young kids there, to inspire and encourage them to lead positive lives and build strong character.

For much more on Muhammad Ali, see TIME’s ALI: The Greatest, a 112-page, fully illustrated commemorative edition. Available at retailers and at AMAZON.COM

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