This was his wish: “Cassius Clay is a slave name. I didn’t choose it, and I didn’t want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free name, and I insist on people using it when speaking to me and of me.” and we shall respect it.
Muhammad Ali was born January 17, 1942 and passed away June 3, 2016. He was an American boxing professional and was highly regarded as the greatest heavyweight to grace the ring.
He was named the Sportsman of the Century in 1999 by Sports Illustrated. With the BBC also crowning him the Sports Personality of the Century.
The Greatest was introduced into the world of boxing at age 12, by police officer and boxing coach Joe E. Martin, after he met a young Ali fuming over a thief who took his bike. Ali told the officer, he was going to whup the thief, with the coach suggesting he first learn boxing.
The Greatest made his amateur boxing debut in 1954 and won six Kentucky Golden Glove titles, two National Golden Glove titles, an Amateur Athletic Union national title and the light heavyweight gold medal at the Olympics in Rome.
His amateur record was an impressive 100 wins with just five losses.
In 1964, Muhammad Alli won the world heavyweight championship, after causing a major upset by beating Sonny Liston. After his victory, he turned to the ringside reporters and said “eat your words” “I am the greatest. I shook up the world. I am the prettiest thing that has ever lived”.
He was the youngest boxer at 22 to claim the title from a residing champion. In a rematch against Sonny Liston, Muhammad Ali was declared winner in less than 2 minutes. In a match many referred to as being controversial.
After he claimed his first heavyweight title -when he beat Liston- he converted to Islam, dropping his “slave name” and joining the Nation of Islam.
Three years after, The Greatest refused to be conscripted into the U.S. military, citing his beliefs and opposition to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
He was arrested, stripped of his titles, after he was found guilty of draft evasion charges. His boxing licence was revoked and he was fined $10, 000. The Greatest did not fight for almost four years. In 1971, Muhammad Ali’s conviction was overturned, after his appeal went through.
Upon his return to the boxing world, Ali wanted to win back his heavyweight title. But ended up losing to Joe Frazier, his first professional loss. The bout saw the introduction of the rope-a-dope strategy.
In 1973, Ken Norton broke Ali’s jaw while giving him the second loss of his career. After initially seeking retirement, Ali won a controversial decision against Norton in their second bout, leading to a rematch at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 1974, with Joe Frazier—who had recently lost his title to George Foreman.
Ali won the rematch against Joe Frazier, by unanimous decision, setting up a fight with George Foreman in Kinshasha, Zaire. The bout was tagged “Rumble in the Jungle”
As usual, Ali was confident and colorful before the fight. He told interviewer David Frost, “If you think the world was surprised when Nixon resigned, wait ’til I whup Foreman’s behind!” He told the press, “I’ve done something new for this fight. 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. Ali was wildly popular in Zaire, with crowds chanting “Ali, bomaye” (“Ali, kill him”) wherever he went.
The Greatest was eloquent and had his way with words that influenced people around him.
Ali employed the rope-a-dope against Foreman, and emerged victorious against all odds.
In the eighth round, Ali dropped an exhausted Foreman with a combination at center ring; Foreman failed to make the count. Against the odds, and amidst pandemonium in the ring, Ali had regained the title by knockout.
In reflecting on the fight, George Foreman later said: “I’ll admit it. Muhammad outthought me and outfought me.”
Ali’s next opponents included Chuck Wepner, Ron Lyle, and Joe Bugner. Wepner, a journeyman known as “The Bayonne Bleeder”, stunned Ali with a knockdown in the ninth round; Ali would later say he tripped on Wepner’s foot.
The Greatest agreed to a third fight with Joe Frazier in Manila. The bout was tagged Thrilla in Manila. Ali adopted the rope-a-dope in the latter stages of the fight and won the bout, after Frazier retired.
An ailing Ali said afterwards that the fight “was the closest thing to dying that I know”, and, when later asked if he had viewed the fight on videotape, reportedly said, “Why would I want to go back and see Hell?” After the fight he cited Frazier as “the greatest fighter of all times next to me”.
Following the Manila bout, Ali fought Jean-Pierre Coopman, Jimmy Young, and Richard Dunn, winning the last by knockout.
Despite pleas to retire, Muhammad Ali fought in other bouts, that proved to be detrimental to his health. Before calling time on his career in 1981.
Ali is the only boxer to have won the heavyweight championship three different lateral times; in 1964, 1974 and 1978.
Throughout his fighting career, the Greatest of All Time floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee.