Muhammad Ali was most famous for floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee, but there was much more to the man than being one of the greatest boxers to step into the ring. He also was an activist who was particularly vocal about the Vietnam War, a philanthropist, a husband, a father, and a Grammy-nominated musician.
When Ali retired from boxing in 1981, it was with a record of 56 wins, a 1960 Olympic gold medal, world heavyweight boxing championship titles, and scores of other awards and accolades.
The Early Years
Muhammad Ali was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on 17 January 1942, and was named Cassius Marcellus Clay. The American South still was segregated, and Ali’s childhood saw incidents of racism and discrimination.
He also was a victim of crime; a crime that ultimately put him on the path to fulfilling his destiny. When Ali was 12 years old, his bike was stolen. While speaking to police officer Joe Martin, Ali said that he wished he could beat up the person who stole his bike. Martin, who trained young boxers at a gym in his spare time, replied that Ali would first need to learn how to fight.
The future boxing champ started training with Martin, and he progressed so much that he was ready to participate in his first amateur bout in 1954.
Muhammad Ali Goes Pro
Muhammad Ali’s early successes earned him a place in the boxing team that the USA sent to Rome, Italy, for the 1960 Olympic Games. He won gold when he defeated Poland’s Zbigniew Pietrzkowski in a fight that must have been as thrilling as the action at a top mobile casino Malaysia.
It was only after his heroic return to the US that Ali became a professional boxer. In addition to the 56 wins mentioned above, his career also saw 37 knockouts and 5 losses.
Some of Ali’s most impressive fights include his 1963 victory over British heavyweight champ Henry Cooper, 1964’s knockout of Sonny Liston, his loss to Joe Frazer in 1971’s so-called Fight of the Century, his victories over Frazier in 1974 and 1975, and the 1974 fight against George Foreman in 1974.
He joined the Nation of Islam in 1964 and changed his name to Cassius X, before converting to mainstream Islam and changing his name to Muhammad Ali the following decade. Ali cited his religious beliefs in his refusal to be conscripted into the US Army during the war in Vietnam in 1967; a move that prevented him from boxing professionally until 1971.
The Later Years
Three years after Muhammad Ali’s 1981 retirement from professional boxing, he announced that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The diagnosis was not enough to dampen his spirits.
Instead, Ali focused more of his time and energy on philanthropic activities, such as raising funds for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Centre in Arizona. He passed away on 3 June 2016, following a respiratory problem. He was 74 years old.