HAMMOND | Though he may be the most outspoken athlete of all time, Muhammad Ali's boxing accomplishments speak for themselves.
But according to Marcel Parent, the three-time heavyweight world champion will be remembered more for what he did outside of the ring.
"From a boxing standpoint, he truly is the greatest of all time," Parent said. "However, what people will talking about 50 or 100 years from now won't be his record or his legendary fights, but his brave stands on civil rights, against the war in Vietnam ... how he used his celebrity to give so much back to society."
Parent is the senior director of education, outreach and curation at the Muhammad Ali Center, founded in 2005 in Louisville, Ken. — Ali's birthplace.
The museum pays tribute to Ali's career, life and civic activism. It also provides tutoring for middle school- and high school-aged youths while emphasizing respect, confidence, conviction, dedication, spirituality and giving.
"Those are the six core principles that embody the life and work of Muhammad Ali," Parent said. "Our aim is to guide young people in an exploration of these core values with flexible lesson plans ... to help them find their own greatness. There's greatness in everyone ... you, me, all people."
Though the museum has a replica ring, speed and heavy bags and the wood-carved sign "Deer Lake (Pa.) Training Camp" where Ali trained as part of its exhibits, the center is not a gym. But its first-ever satellite location is the Hammond Boxing Club.
"We offer a tutoring program here, and we wanted to expand from that," said HBC manager Dennis Hardesty of the Ogden Street gym, which opened in 2009. "Though my connections in boxing, I got in touch with Marcel about possibly being a part of what they were doing.
"We communicated back and forth, and we were able to make it happen."
On Feb. 22, the club held a press conference to formally announce the Hammond Boxing Club's partnership with the Muhammad Ali Center. Though the "Greatest" wasn't there personally — his battle with Parkinson's Disease has hampered public appearances — his daughter Jamillah Ali was there to present a lithograph poster signed by her father.
Adhering to the advice of professional wrestler "Gorgeous George" who told Ali — then named Cassius Clay — that it's good for box office returns to get people to pay just for a chance to see your mouth shut (or jaw broken), Ali's boastful trash talking during his formative years rankled many people. When he converted and joined the Nation of Islam, refused entry into the draft and became an ostentatious figure in the civil rights movement, Ali was vilified even more.
Now, famous athletes get vilified for their apolitical inertia.
"It's probably unfair to criticize some of today's athletes for not being as vocal about issues," Hardesty said. "It was a much more turbulent time in this country during Ali's (heyday)."
"But there are still children going to bed hungry, still people who are homeless, still people suffering injustices," Parent said. "There's always room for improvement, and like Muhammad Ali, we should always strive to make the world a better place."