“I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick; I’m so mean I make medicine sick.” – Muhammad Ali
This is a story about one of the greatest athletes in the history of sports — Muhammad Ali who has been given the name ‘The Greatest’. Ali won the Golden Glove Championship in 1959 and won almost all of his fights by Knock Out. This is the story of how Muhammad Ali went from being a simple 12-year-old kid and transitioned into the best boxer that ever lived.
Cassius Marcellus Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali was born on 17 January 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. Born and raised in the segregated South region of the United States, Ali experienced racial prejudice and discrimination first hand, which more than likely contributed to his boxing career.
Ali discovered his talent for boxing through a very odd twist of fate. According to him, his bike was stolen when he was 12-years-old, and the acting police officer at the time was Joe Martin. Ali told the officer that he wants to beat up the thief who stole his bike and Martin reportedly replied saying, “Well you better learn how to fight before you start challenging people”. In addition to Martin being a police officer he also trained young boxers at a local gym.
Early Boxing Career
Ali began his boxing career working with Martin. He landed his first amateur bout in 1954 which he won by split decision. Soon after, Ali went on to win the 1956 Golden Glove Tournament for novices in the light heavyweight division and the National Golden Glove Tournament of Champions three years later, as well as the Amateur Union’s national title.
In October 1960, Muhammad Ali won his first professional Olympic title embarking on a boxing career that would later change the sport forever. Ali’s unorthodox fighting style mainly relied on deft footwork and his speed. Muhammad seemed to be so comfortable and so confident with his speed and agility that he would often leave his guard down to taunt his opponents. That’s pretty cocky and at the same time amazing.
“If you even dream of beating me you’d better wake up and apologize.” – Muhammad Ali
During the 1960’s Ali seemed unstoppable, winning ALL his fights with a majority of them by Knock Out. He took out British Heavyweight champion Henry Cooper in 1963 and then went on to retire Sonny Liston winning the Heavyweight championship. Ali was not afraid to do his own praise, in fact, he was often seen boasting about his ability to box and knock his opponents out with witty and clever phrases. One of his most famous ever quote was that he could “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.
Conversion to Islam
The same year he beat Sonny Liston, Ali announced his conversion to the nation of Islam and that he would no longer known as Cassius Clay but now Muhammad Ali — a name given to him by his spiritual teacher. His affiliation with the nation of Islam received mixed reactions from the public surrounding Ali in controversy yet again.
This was the time when the Vietnam War was unfolding and the United States had started sending military admission drafts to the people. Ali also received one but rather than appealing the draft on the basis of his sporting career and success; he chose to object on the grounds of his newfound religion. Ali objected by stating that his religious beliefs forbade any form of killing. Consequently Ali was arrested and fined $10,000 for evasion of the draft and was stripped of his heavyweight title and his license to box.
Comeback to Boxing
After three and half years in exile, Ali made his return to the sport in 1970 fighting and defeating Jerry Quarry in the third round. Ali then signed up to fight the undefeated Heavyweight Champion Joe Frazier at a sold-out event at Madison Square Garden dubbed ‘the Fight of the Century’. The iconic bout lasted for 15 rounds with both men still standing, but the title stayed with Joe by unanimous decision; this was Ali’s first professional loss. He later went on to defeat Frazier in a rematch in January of 1974.
Another legendary fight Ali took part in was against reigning champion George Foreman, at a bout known as the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ which took place in Zaire in 1974. For the first time Muhammad was seen as the underdog facing an opponent who was both younger and stronger. Ali shocked and silenced his critics after he defeated Foreman winning the Heavyweight Championship of the World.
On October 1st, 1975, Ali fought his rival Joe Frazier for a third time. This was perhaps the most hotly-anticipated fight of that era at an event dubbed the ‘Thrilla in Manila’ between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier which lasted 15 rounds with Ali finally coming out on top. Later, Ali was quoted saying that the fight was, “the closest thing to death that he had ever experienced.”
In 1984 Ali was diagnosed with Parkinsons, a degenerative neurological disease that has been linked with trauma injuries to the head. Despite his condition Muhammad Ali like a true champion stayed on top of his philanthropy career after retiring from boxing, raising funds for Muhammad Ali’s Parkinson Center in Phoenix, Arizona. He also supported numerous charities, the Special Olympics and the Make a Wish Foundation.
In 2005, Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the President George W. Bush, and also opened the Muhammad Ali Center in his hometown. According to interviews and reports Ali said, “I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given, I believed in myself and I believe in the goodness of others.”
Muhammad Ali has had the most inspirational quotes and he has been an Ambassador for promoting the goodness of Islam, He says, “Terrorists are not following Islam. Killing people and blowing up people and dropping bombs in places and all this is not the way to spread the word of Islam. So people realize now that all Muslims are not terrorists.”