Muhammad Ali Biography
MUHAMMAD ALI AKA CASSIUS MARCELLUS CLAY
Born: January 17, 1942 in Louisville, KY
Died: June 3, 2016, Scottsdale, AZ
National Golden Gloves Champion: 1959, 1960
AAU National Champion: 1959, 1960
Olympic Light Heavyweight Gold Medal Champion: 1960
Amateur career record: 96 wins (52 KO), 6 defeats
Three Time World Heavyweight Champion: 1964, 1974, 1978
Professional career record: 56 wins (37 KO), 5 defeats
"The Louisville Lip"
Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. was the older of two sons born in Louisville, Kentucky to Odessa and Cassius Clay. His mother worked as a domestic and his father painted billboards and signs to support their family. After 12-year-old Clay's bike was stolen, he vowed to "whup whoever stole it" to Louisville police officer and boxing coach Joe E. Martin. In an attempt to re-channel Clay's aggression, Martin introduced him to boxing. In the six years that followed, Clay won two National Golden Gloves titles, two AAU titles and the Olympic Gold Medal. By the end of 1960, he had turned professional and went on to amass a 19-0 record before being given the chance at Sonny Liston's title in 1964. Liston was the overwhelming favorite going into the fight, but Clay "shook up the world" by winning the bout and the heavyweight crown.
Shortly after the Liston fight, Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali and his religion to the Nation of Islam. Much controversy surrounded Ali during this time period, and most of his fights were overseas. Still, he defended his title successfully nine times, from the rematch with Liston in 1965 until the Zora Folley match-up in 1967. Shortly after defeating Folley, Ali was stripped of his title, banned from boxing, convicted of refusing to serve in the military and sentenced to five years in prison. During his exile from boxing, Ali fought to appeal his conviction, which was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971.
Five months after returning to boxing in 1970, Ali attempted to regain the heavyweight title by challenging Joe Frazier in the "Fight of the Century", but the years in exile may have taken a toll, and Frazier handed Ali his first professional loss. A string of victories through 1973 and a win in the 1974 rematch with Frazier provided Ali the opportunity to take a shot at heavily favored George Foreman in the 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle". Ali's rope-a-dope strategy paid off, and he was once again the heavyweight champion of the world.
In 1975, Ali defended his title against Frazier in the final match-up of their trilogy, and won "The Thrilla in Manila", calling it the "closest thing to death I could feel." Ali continued to successfully defend his title until he lost to 1976 Olympic Champion Leon Spinks in 1978. Just seven months later, Ali beat Spinks in a rematch to regain the title for a record third time, and retired as reigning champion the following year.
Ali came out of retirement to fight new champion Larry Holmes and was soundly beaten by TKO in the eleventh round. After losing a unanimous decision to Trevor Berbick in 1981, Ali retired for the last time.
In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a neurological disorder that causes muscle tremors and slowness of speech. He continues to lend his name and efforts to raising money for Parkinson's disease research.
Ali's professional and personal accomplishments are many. In 1996, Ali carried the Olympics torch and ignited the cauldron to officially begin the games in Atlanta, Georgia. Sports Illustrated named him the Athlete of the Century; the BBC voted him their Sports Personality of the Century. Ring Magazine named Ali the "Fighter of the Year" more times than any other fighter. President George W. Bush presented Ali with the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2005. Later that year, Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House Ceremony.
Also in 2005, the non-profit Muhammad Ali Center opened in Louisville, Kentucky, Ali's hometown. The primary focuses of the center are its humanitarian efforts to promote social responsibility and peace. According to the Center's website: "Since he retired from boxing, Ali has devoted himself to humanitarian endeavors around the globe. He is a devout Muslim, and travels the world over, lending his name and presence to hunger and poverty relief, supporting education efforts of all kinds, promoting adoption and encouraging people to respect and better understand one another. It is estimated that he has helped to provide more than 22 million meals to feed the hungry."
Though controversy surrounded Ali early in his career, he has become one of the most beloved figures in sports history, and one of the most recognized people in the world. "I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me," said Ali. "It would be a better world."