However, what set him apart from his contemporaries were the values he believed in throughout his life. An ardent believer of racial justice and religious freedom, Ali converted to Islam and even changed his name from Cassius Marcellus Clay to Muhammad Ali.
As one of the most outstanding sports figures of his time, Muhammad caused a ripple in the boxing ring at the tender age of 22 after defeating the then boxing champion, Sonny Liston. From then, there was no looking back for this amazing fighter.
Throughout his boxing career, Muhammad recorded 56 wins. His most memorable matches were between him and George Foreman, Joe Frazier, and Liston. He was the only three times world heavyweight champion. Interestingly, apart from being dominating and very powerful, Ali was also vocal.
Early Life and Childhood
Muhammad Ali was born on 17, January 1942 in Kentucky to Odessa O'Grady and Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr. One time when his bicycle was stolen at the age of 12 years he reported the theft to the area police and he promised to teach the culprit a lesson.
Interestingly, it was the police officer at Louisville who changed the fate of Ali. Martin, the police officer who was also a boxing trainer implored Muhammad to learn how to fight first.
Teaching him some of the technicalities of boxing, Martin served as his early coach.
However, in the last years of his amateur training, he was trained by Chuck Bodack. By the age of 18 years, Muhammad Ali had won two amateur athletic national titles, two national gloves titles and 100 wins against 8 losses. After graduating he moved to Rome and won the lightweight gold medal
Ali’s outstanding accomplishments as an amateur won him a place in the US boxing Olympic team in 1960. After winning his first three bouts in Poland he went ahead and clinched his first gold in the event. This win won him hero status. His wins, most of which came out as knockouts, made him the top fighter for Sunny Liston title.
Due to this, a fight was arranged between the two in February 1964. Since Liston was the champion by then Ali seemed to be the underdog. This was because his past fights showed that he lacked the skills to pull up a good fight.
Even before the bout the two fighters started defaming each other. This was something that had never happened in the boxing history. Angered by the disparaging comments from Ali, Liston vowed to give him a knockout but unfortunately he lost the fight in the 6th round.
After beating Liston, Mohammad became the youngest person to assume the title of a heavyweight boxing champion. Meanwhile, during this time, he changed his name to Muhammad after converting to Islam. After this, a rematch was organized. The second match was the same as the first one only that it took two minutes for Ali to win the fight.
After beating Liston, his second title defense was against Floyd Patterson. This match lasted up to 12 rounds after which he was pronounced the winner. The following years he won boxing matches against Henry Cooper, George Chuvalo, Brian London and Cleveland Williams. In 1967 he fought Terrell was also a heavyweight champion. This match went up to 15 rounds in which both of them displayed prowess and skills. Mohammad Ali was however pronounced the winner. Since he refused to serve in the army during the Vietnam War, he was stripped of his title. He was also suspended and sentenced to 3 years in jail.
After this, he made a comeback in 1970 with fight against Jerry Quarry. He was also selected as the main contender against Joe Frazier. This fight was the fight of the century because it involved two undefeated opponents. This bout was held on March 8, 1971. Although it was a hard fight, Frazier took the lead towards the end and won the fight. This was his first ever loss since he started his career in boxing.
In 1973, he also lost to Ken Norton and broke his Jaw. However, he won the rematch giving him an opportunity to fight Joe Frazier again. This rematch was held in 1974 and Mohamed Ali won. By defeating Frazier, a fight was arranged between George Foreman and Ali.
Although Ali was considered an underdog, he still went ahead and won the fight after Foreman never made it to the count at the end of the eighth round. In 1975, Ali fought one of the toughest fights which was termed as Thrilla in Manilla lasting 14 rounds in which Ali also won.
Muhammad Ali’s Accomplishments
· He was the recipient of the presidential Medal of Freedom and presidential citizen’s medal which was given by the then president George Bush
· He was honored by many titles including the sportsman of the year, the greatest fighter of the year and the sports personality of the year.
· His name entered the international boxing hall of fame and was even honored with a star.
Some of His Famous Quotes
· “I am young, I am handsome, I am fast, there is no way someone can possibly beat me”
· “If you even dream of beating me, you better wake up and apologize”
· “If my mind can conceive and my mind can believe then I can achieve”
· “Although I hated every stage of training but I said, don’t quit, suffer now and live the rest of your life as champion”
During his time, Mohammad Ai married four times. His partners were Belinda Boyd, Veronica Porsche, Yolanda and Sonki Roy. He was blessed with 2 sons and 7 daughters. In 1984, he was diagnosed with Parkinson disease. This was mainly as a result of injuries that he got during his boxing debuts. Ali the legend, died on June 3, 2016, in Scottsdale Arizona, at the age of 74. Called The Greatest, Ali was one of the best professional boxing champions of his time.