The boy Cassius Clay was born on January 14, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. Though destined for greatness, he might not have known that the stealing of his bicycle would have led him on the road of preparation to achieving his highest calling, through meeting the investigating officer Joe Martin.
Upon learning about Cassius Clay, Martin, who was also a boxing trainer, invited him to the local gym. For a man with such skills and trained eyes, it was easy for Martin to detect that Cassius Clay not only had the innate ability to box but that he had discovered a youngster with a God given talent.
Joe Martin realization went beyond punches though, as he realized that Clay also had an uncanny ability to read his opponents moves, which enabled him to counteract with great precision in the spur of the moment. Clay was only 12 years old.
In 1960 at 18 years old, Cassius Clay represented his country at the Olympics Games and claimed gold in the boxing ring after easily dominating his opponents. Clay’s first taste of a professional bout would also come in the same year where he faced off with Tunney Hunsaker. He won by unanimous decision after six rounds.
CHANGING IN THE GAME
Cassius found religion in his growing process and converted to Islam where he adopted the name Muhammad Ali. Not only was he a phenomenal fighter but a man who stood firmly for equal rights and justice. He was totally against racism and inequality. Ali’s choice of religion didn’t sit comfortably with certain pockets of individuals and as such resulted in him becoming a fighter in and out of the ring. But his wisdom was clearly pulled from some deeper reservoir. For example, he refused to be addressed Negro.
His analogy for example:
- Chinese come from China
- Asians from Asia
- Indians from India
- Jamaicans from Jamaica
- Japanese from Japan
- Australians from Australia
- Africans from Africa
- Nigerians from Nigeria
- English from England
- Irish from Ireland
- Germans from Germany…
and so on.
But there is no country called Negro!
THE POWER BEHIND THE PUNCH
Sonny Liston, a man regarded as one of Heavyweights boxing gems was Ali’s ticket to becoming the undisputed champion of the world. Many didn’t think Ali was capable of winning in this matchup but with great versatility, speed and technique, he was able to dethrone the then champion. Ali was an extremely skillful boxer. The best words to describe his boxing style are his own: “Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!”
Ali’s foot work was amazing and, added to his quick powerful jabs, it was pretty much lights out at the end of the match! His defensive tactics were unmatched. It was as if he created the word deception. He was a man that couldn’t be hit at times no matter how hard one tried. His fights were quite a spectacle to watch. One could almost surmise that he flitted around his opponents until they wore out themselves trying to hit him. He was a bright and enlightened personality who lit up the darkest room. His poetic prowess and comedic personality would not leave one short of being entertained.
THE JOURNEY OF THE GOAT
Ali successfully defended his title on many occasions but come 1971, he went into training to prepare for the fight of his life. Some people dubbed it, “The fight of the Century,” against the budding star Joe Frasier.
Ali was unable to hold on to his belt as he was handed his first defeat in a long brutal match which would eventually go down in history as a matchup of legends!
He was able to regain his Championship belt in 1974 however, and this solidified his status, in his own right, as the GOAT of boxing
STRIPPED FOR REFUSING TO FIGHT WAR
Ali was stripped of his right to box for several years, along with being stripped of his titles, this for “famously refusing” to join the US Military to fight in the Vietnamese War. He said it was against his religious beliefs and emphasized his disgust at war among countries. He was convicted of draft evasion, fined $10,000 and sentenced to prison for five years. However, the conviction was reversed on “a technical error” and he was recused by eight white marshals. Ali’s stance against war and corruption inspired many and as a staunch activist he won the hearts and empathy of many around the world.
DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK
Muhammad’s burning desire to get back in the ring was untamed and after his exile from boxing, he returned in the early 1970’s. He had to work from the ground up and his rise to Championship contender wasn’t easy. He got the opportunity to regain his title in 1974 against the big heavy hitter George Foreman. The fight was dubbed “The Rumble In The Jungle.” The anticipation was great in Zaire where it was held, but extended across all of Africa and the rest of the world.
This was his chance to do what has never been done before, which was to regain his boxing championship record for yet another time. With great persistence and training, this natural born boxer defeated George Foreman with great technique, tiring the bigger boxer and then unleashing a variety of punches that would see George Foreman knocked to the ground!
Muhammad would go on to defend his title against Leon Spinks and proved that one should never underestimate the heart of a champion. His illustrious boxing career spanned 21 years.
A champion of the boxing ring, a champion of the people, an activist for peace, prosperity, equal rights and justice, he was adored around the world by many and became a huge household name.
Ali fought till his very last breath. With a severe case of Parkinson’s disease he carried the torch in the 1996 Olympics which went down as one of the proudest moments in sports history. He did it with a smile and he did it like only Muhammad Ali could. He did it like a champion!!!
Muhammad Ali passed away on June 3rd 2016 at the age of 74 and continues to live on in the hearts of family, friends and fans around the world that will cherish his memory forever. He will always be regarded as one the greatest boxers of all time.
Contributed by Ayun Daley
Disclaimer: This information was generated through CHATGPT.