Junior welterweight titleholders Devon Alexander and Timothy Bradley Jr., two of boxing's leading active African-American fighters, are too young to remember the words of Martin Luther King Jr. when he was alive, but his words and work have had an impact on them nonetheless.
Alexander and Bradley meet Jan. 29 (HBO) at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., in the first major fight of 2011, in what has become something of a rarity these days -- two top black fighters facing each other.
They each reflected on what King meant to them on Monday's Martin Luther King Day national holiday commemorating his birthday.
Alexander: "Martin Luther King was legendary. Without him, I don't believe things would be like they are today. We might still be struggling for basic equality. He was a major figure in the black community. He taught nonviolence and tried to make peace between people. No drama. He just wanted to bring people together. All Americans should be proud of who he was and what he stood for. It made him a world figure, a historical figure.
"His influence on me in particular is that I remember him telling black people to be proud and not to be ashamed of who you are. It sounds simple, and it is, but it's also very important. He always said everybody should be treated equally. I like all races and people and believe in equality. No man should get better treatment simply based on their race or color, and I think Dr. King taught me that in the words he wrote, the way he spoke and the way he led people.
"He was a great leader for all Americans. He wanted all children to be able to go to school and not be discriminated against. He did not believe in segregation. Dr. King was a hero to us all, and he will never be forgotten. I have the opportunity every day to go out and achieve whatever I want to, and it is because of him that I get that chance."
Bradley: "Martin Luther King was a realist, a man who had a dream to stop slavery and give all people equal freedom. He stood by his beliefs. He was a warrior with a warrior mentality. He did not take 'no' for an answer, and because of his determination, he was unfortunately taken from the people that he freed.
"Due to what he accomplished, I have had opportunities that I might not otherwise have had today, and I am grateful for the freedom that he not only gave me but all the other African-Americans living in this United States of America today.
"My family and I celebrate Martin Luther King Day all the way through February by joining together with the community at certain celebrations to honor Black History Month. It is our distinct pleasure and honor to be there in remembrance of one of the greater leaders in our time, Dr. Martin Luther King."