Muhammad Ali, considered as the greatest boxer of all times, was born as Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1975, he changed his name to Muhammad Ali when he joined the Nation of Islam and later on the Sunni Islam.
Ali got his inspiration to become a boxer when at the age of 12, he lost his bike. He reported it to police officer and boxing coach Joe Martin. When he told Martin that he wanted to beat up whoever took his bike, Martin suggested that he should train to learn how to fight. So at the young age of 12, Ali started to seriously train six days a week. In 1954, he had his first amateur bout which he won by split decision. Then in 1956, he won the Golden Gloves tournament for novices in the light heavyweight class. In 1959, he won the national Golden Gloves middleweight championship and in 1960 the Amateur Athletic Union’s national light heavyweight title. In the same year, Ali won the Olympic Gold Medal for the light heavyweight division.
After his Olympic gold, Ali turned professional, backed by the Louisville Sponsoring Group. His first professional fight was in 1960 where he defeated West Virginia police chief Tunney Hunsaker. From then on, Ali was unstoppable, winning all his fights mostly via knockouts. Ali’s boxing style is unorthodox in that he relies on his ability to evade a punch rather than using his hands to protect his face. He has excellent footwork complemented by a powerful jab.
In 1966, Ali’s boxing career took a turn when he refused to be drafted for the Vietnam war, citing that it was against the Muslim religion. He was then banned from fighting in the United States; thus, all his fights were held abroad. Ali was stripped of his title by the professional boxing commission and was not allowed to fight for three years. In 1970, he was allowed to fight again in some US states and in 1971, the Supreme Court reversed its 1967 conviction of Ali’s draft evasion case. . Ali won the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship three times, in 1964-67, 1974-78 and 1978-79.
Ali retired in 1981 after losing his heavyweight title to Trevor Berbick. Ali ended his career with 56 wins (37 by knockout) and 5 defeats. In 1984, Ali announced that he is afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. After retirement, he devoted much of his time to humanitarian and philanthropic causes including raising funds for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center, support for the Special Olympics and the Make a Wish Foundation.. Even after his retirement, Ali was awarded with several honors. In 1983, he was inducted in the US Olympic Hall of Fame. He was named “the greatest heavyweight champion of all time” by Ring Magazine in1987. In 1990, he was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The Lifetime Achievement Award at Jim Thorpe Pro Sports Award in 1992 was given to him. In 1999 he received the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame’s "Kentucky Athlete of the Century", the BBC Sports Personality of the Century Award, and the Sports Illustrated "Sportsman of the Century". In 2005, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush and the United Nations Association of Germany’s "Otto Hahn peace medal in Gold" .
At present, Ali lives on a small farm near Berrien Springs, Michigan with his fourth wife, Yolanda 'Lonnie' Ali. His boxing career may be over but he will always remain in the memory of boxing fans worldwide. Today, he has found meaning in his other career, that of helping others through his humanitarian endeavors.
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