Muhammad Ali

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Muhammad Ali

Name Muhammad Ali
Birth name Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.
Nickname The Greatest, The Champ,
The Louisville Lip
Height 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in)
Reach 2 M
Weight division Heavyweight
Nationality United States
Birth date January 17, 1942 (1942-01-17) (age 67)
Birth place Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 61
Wins 56
Wins by KO 37
Losses 5
Draws 0
No contests 0
Medal record
Men's Boxing

Gold 1960 Rome Light heavyweight

Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.) is a retired American boxer and three-time World Heavyweight Champion. As an amateur, he won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics. As a professional, he became the first man to win the lineal heavyweight championship three times.

In 1999, Ali was crowned "Sportsman of the Century" by Sports Illustrated and "Sports Personality of the Century" by the BBC.[1]

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., Ali changed his name after joining the Nation of Islam in 1964, subsequently converting to Sunni Islam in 1975 and later Sufism.[2] In 1967 Ali refused to fight in the Vietnam war due to his religious beliefs. He was subsequently stripped of his championship title and his boxing license was suspended. He did not fight again for nearly four years.

Ali was well known for his fighting style, which he described as "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee".[3] Throughout his career Ali made a name for himself with great handspeed, as well as swift feet and taunting tactics. While Ali was renowned for his fast, sharp out-fighting style, he also had a great chin, and displayed great courage and an ability to take a punch throughout his career. Ali was also involved in several historic boxing matches with his rivals Joe Frazier and George Foreman.



Amateur career; Olympic gold

Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., was born on January 17, 1942.[4] He was named after his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr., who was named for the 19th century abolitionist and politician of the same name. His father, painted billboards and signs, and his mother, Odessa Grady Clay, was a household domestic. Although Cassius Sr. was a Methodist, he allowed Odessa to bring up both Clay boys as Baptists.[5] His father is of mixed African and English ancestry and his mother is of mixed African and Irish ancestry.

Clay was first directed toward boxing by the white Louisville police officer and boxing coach Joe E. Martin,[6] who encountered the then twelve-year-old Cassius Clay fuming over the fact that his bicycle had been stolen.[7] However, without Martin knowing, Clay also began training with Fred Stoner, an African-American trainer working at the local community center.[8] In this way, Clay could make $4 a week on Tomorrow's Champions, a local, weekly TV show that Martin hosted, while benefiting from the coaching of the more experienced Stoner, who continued working with Clay throughout his amateur career.

Clay's last amateur loss was to Kent Green of Chicago,[9] who could say he was the last person to defeat the champion until Ali lost to Joe Frazier in 1971 as a pro. Under Stoner's guidance, Cassius Clay went on to win six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union National Title, and the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.[10] Clay's record was 100 wins, with five losses, when he ended his amateur career.

Ali states (in his 1975 autobiography) that he threw his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River after being refused service at a 'whites-only' restaurant, and fighting with a white gang.[11] Whether this is true is still debated, although he was given a replacement medal during the opening ceremony of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where he lit the torch to start the games.

Early professional career

After his Olympic triumph, Clay returned to Louisville to begin his professional career. There, on October 29, 1960, he won his first professional fight, a six-round decision over Tunney Hunsaker, who was the police chief of Fayetteville, West Virginia.

Standing tall, at 6-ft, 3-in (1.91 m), Clay had a highly unorthodox style for a heavyweight boxer. Rather than the normal style of carrying the hands high to defend the face, he instead relied on foot speed and quickness to avoid punches and carried his hands low.

From 1960 to 1963, the young fighter amassed a record of 19-0, with 15 knockouts. He defeated boxers such as Tony Esperti, Jim Robinson, Donnie Fleeman, Alonzo Johnson, George Logan, Willi Besmanoff, Lamar Clark (who had won his previous 40 bouts by knockout), Doug Jones and Henry Cooper.

Clay built a reputation by correctly predicting the round in which he would "finish" several opponents, and by boasting before his triumphs. Clay admitted he adopted the latter practice from "Gorgeous" George Wagner, a popular professional wrestling champion in the Los Angeles area who drew thousands of fans. Often referred to as "the man you loved to hate," George could incite the crowd with a few heated remarks, and Ali followed suit.

Among Clay's victims were Sonny Banks (who knocked him down during the bout), Alejandro Lavorante, and the aged Archie Moore (a boxing legend who had fought over 200 previous fights, and who had been Clay's trainer prior to Angelo Dundee). Clay had considered continuing using Moore as a trainer following the bout, but Moore had insisted that the cocky "Louisville Lip" perform training camp chores such as sweeping and dishwashing. He also considered having his idol, Sugar Ray Robinson, as a manager, but instead hired Dundee.

Clay first met Dundee when the latter was in Louisville with light heavyweight champ Willie Pastrano. The teenaged Golden Glove winner traveled downtown to the fighter's hotel, called Dundee from the house phone, and was asked up to their room. He took advantage of the opportunity to query Dundee (who was working with, or had, champions Sugar Ramos and Carmen Basilio) about what his fighters ate, how long they slept, how much roadwork (jogging) they did, and how long they sparred.

Following his bout with Moore, Clay won a disputed 10-round decision over Doug Jones in a matchup that was named "Fight of the Year" for 1963. Clay's next fight was against Henry Cooper, who knocked Clay down with a left hook near the end of the fourth round. The fight was stopped in the fifth due to deep cuts over Cooper's eyes.

Despite these close calls, Clay became the top contender for Sonny Liston's title. Despite his impressive record, however, he was not widely expected to defeat the champ. The fight was scheduled for February 25, 1964 in Miami, Florida, but was nearly canceled when the promoter, Bill Faversham, heard that Clay had been seen around Miami and in other cities with the controversial Malcolm X. At the time, The Nation of Islam—of which Malcolm X was a member—was (and still is) labeled as a hate group by most of the media. Because of this, news of this association was perceived as a potential gate-killer to a bout where, given Liston's overwhelming status as the favorite to win (7-1 odds[12]), had Clay's colorful persona and nonstop braggadocio as its sole appeal.

Faversham confronted Clay about his association with Malcolm X (who, at the time, was actually under suspension by the Nation as a result of controversial comments made in the wake of President Kennedy's assassination, which he called a case of "the chickens coming home to roost"). While stopping short of admitting he was a member of the Nation, Clay protested the suggested cancellation of the fight. As a compromise, Faversham asked the fighter to delay his announcement about his conversion to Islam until after the fight. The incident is described in the 1975 book The Greatest: My Own Story by Ali (with Richard Durham).

During the weigh-in on the day before the bout, the ever-boastful Clay, who frequently taunted Liston during the buildup by dubbing him "the big ugly bear" (among other things), declared that he would "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee," and, summarizing his strategy for avoiding Liston's assaults, said, "Your hands can't hit what your eyes can't see."

First title fight

Clay had a plan for his first title fight. At the pre-fight weigh-in, Clay's pulse rate was around 120, more that double his norm of 54.[13] Liston, along with others, misread this as nervousness, and as such, was typically over-confident and unprepared for any result other than a quick knockout victory in his favour. In the opening rounds, Clay's speed kept him away from Liston's powerful head and body shots, as he used his height advantage to beat Liston to the punch with his own lightning-quick jab.[13]

By the third round, Clay was ahead on points and had opened a cut under Liston's eye.[13] Liston regained some ground in the fourth, as Clay was blinded by a substance in his eyes.[13] It is unconfirmed whether this was something used to close Liston's cuts, or deliberately applied to Liston's gloves for a nefarious purpose;[13] however, Bert Sugar (author, boxing historian and insider) has recalled at least two other Liston fights in which a similar situation occurred, suggesting the possibility that the Liston corner deliberately attempted to cheat.

Whatever the case, Liston came into the fourth round aggressively looking to put away the challenger. As Clay struggled to recover his vision, he sought to escape Liston's offensive. He was able to keep out of range until his sweat and tears rinsed the substance from his eyes, responding with a flurry of combinations near the end of the fifth round. By the sixth, he was looking for a finish and dominated Liston. Then, Liston shocked the boxing world when he failed to answer the bell for the seventh round, later claiming a shoulder injury as the reason.

In the rematch, which was held in May 1965 in relatively-remote Lewiston, Maine, Ali (who had by now publicly converted to Islam and changed his name) won by knockout in the first round as a result of what came to be called the "phantom punch." Many believe that Liston, possibly as a result of threats from Nation of Islam extremists, or in an attempt to "throw" the fight to pay off debts, just wanted to call it a day and waited to be counted out (see Muhammad Ali versus Sonny Liston). Others, however, discount both scenarios and insist that it was a quick, chopping Ali punch to the side of the head that legitimately felled Liston. On November 22, 1965 (the second anniversary of the JFK assassination) Ali fought Floyd Patterson in his second title defense including his rematch with Liston. Patterson lost by technical knockout at the end of the 12th round. As would later occur with Ernie Terrell, many sportswriters accused Ali of "carrying" Patterson so that he could physically punish him without knocking him out. Ali countered that Patterson, who said his punching prowess was limited when he strained his sacroiliac, was not as easy to down as may have appeared.

Ali was scheduled to fight WBA champion Ernie Terrell (the WBA stripped Ali of his title after his agreement to fight a rematch with Liston) on March 29, but Terrell backed out and Ali won a 15-round decision against substitute opponent George Chuvalo. He then went to England and defeated Henry Cooper by stoppage on cuts and Brian London. Ali's next defense was against German southpaw Karl Mildenberger, the first German to fight for the title since Max Schmeling. In one of the tougher fights of his life, Ali stopped his opponent in round 12.

Ali returned to the United States in November 1966 to fight Cleveland "Big Cat" Williams in the Houston Astrodome. According to the Sports Illustrated account, the bout drew an indoor world record 35,460 fight fans. A year and a half before the fight, Williams had been shot in the stomach at point-blank range by a Texas policeman. As a result, Williams went into the fight missing one kidney and 10 feet of his small intestine, and with a shriveled left leg from nerve damage from the bullet. Ali beat Williams in three rounds.

On February 6, 1967, Ali returned to a Houston boxing ring to fight Terrell in what became one of the uglier fights in boxing. Terrell had angered Ali by calling him Clay, and the champion vowed to punish him for this insult. During the fight, Ali kept shouting at his opponent, "What's my name, Uncle Tom ... What's my name?" Terrell suffered 15 rounds of brutal punishment, losing 13 rounds on two judges' scorecards, but Ali did not knock him out. Analysts, including several who spoke to ESPN on the sports channel's "Ali Rap" special, speculated that the fight continued only because Ali wanted to thoroughly punish and humiliate Terrell. After the fight, Tex Maule wrote, "It was a wonderful demonstration of boxing skill and a barbarous display of cruelty." When asked about this during a replay of the fight on ABC's popular "Wide World of Sports" by host Howard Cosell, Ali said he was not unduly cruel to Terrell- that boxers are paid to punch all their opponents into submission or defeat. He pointed out that if he had not hit and hurt Terrell, Terrell would have hit and hurt him, which is standard practice. Cosell's repeated reference to the topic surprised Ali. Following his final defense against Zora Folley in March 1967 Ali would be stripped of his title the following month for refusing to be drafted into the Army and had his professional boxing license suspended.


Ali at an address by Elijah Muhammad

After winning the championship from Liston in 1964, Clay revealed that he was a member of the Nation of Islam (often called the Black Muslims at the time) and the Nation gave Clay the name Cassius X, discarding his surname as a symbol of his ancestors' enslavement, as had been done by other Nation members. On Friday, March 6, 1964, Malcolm X took Clay on a guided tour of the United Nations building (for a second time). Malcolm X announced that Clay would be granted his "X." That same night, Elijah Muhammad recorded a statement over the phone to be played over the radio that Clay would be renamed Muhammad (one who is worthy of praise) Ali (fourth rightly guided caliph). Only a few journalists (most notably Howard Cosell) accepted it at that time. Venerable boxing announcer Don Dunphy addressed the champion by his adopted name, as did British reporters. The adoption of this name symbolized his new identity as a member of the Nation of Islam.

Many sportswriters of the early 1960s reported that it was Ali's brother, Rudy Clay, who converted to Islam first (estimating the date as 1961). Others wrote that Clay had been seen at Muslim rallies a few years before he fought Liston. Ali's own version is that he would sneak into Nation of Islam meetings through the backdoor roughly three years before he fought Sonny Liston. He was afraid that if others knew he wouldn't be able to fight for his title.

Aligning himself with the Nation of Islam made him a lightning rod for controversy, turning the outspoken but popular champion into one of that era's most recognizable and controversial figures. Appearing at rallies with Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad and declaring his allegiance to him at a time when mainstream America viewed them with suspicion — if not outright hostility — made Ali a target of outrage, as well as suspicion. Ali seemed at times to provoke such reactions, with viewpoints that wavered from support for civil rights to outright support of separatism. For example, Ali once stated, in relation to integration: "We who follow the teachings of Elijah Muhammad don't want to be forced to integrate. Integration is wrong. We don't want to live with the white man; that's all."[14] And in relation to inter-racial marriage: "No intelligent black man or black woman in his or her right black mind wants white boys and white girls coming to their homes to marry their black sons and daughters."[14] Indeed, Ali's religious beliefs at the time included the notion that the white man was "the devil" and that white people were not "righteous." Ali claimed that white people hated black people.

Ali converted from the Nation of Islam sect to mainstream Sunni Islam in 1975. In a 2004 autobiography, written with daughter Hana Yasmeen Ali, Muhammad Ali attributes his conversion to the shift toward Sunni Islam made by Warith Deen Muhammad after he gained control of the Nation of Islam upon the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975.

Vietnam War

In 1964, Ali failed the U.S. Armed Forces qualifying test because his writing and spelling skills were sub-par. However, in early 1966, the tests were revised and Ali was reclassified as 1A. This classification meant he was now eligible for the draft and induction into the U.S. Army. This was especially important because the United States was engaged in the Vietnam War. When notified of this status, he declared that he would refuse to serve in the United States Army and publicly considered himself a conscientious objector. Ali stated that "War is against the teachings of the Holy Qur'an. I'm not trying to dodge the draft. We are not supposed to take part in no wars unless declared by Allah or The Messenger. We don't take part in Christian wars or wars of any unbelievers." Ali also famously said in 1966: "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong ... They never called me nigger."[15][16]

Appearing for his scheduled induction into the U.S. Armed Forces on April 28, 1967 in Houston, he refused three times to step forward at the call of his name. An officer warned him he was committing a felony punishable by five years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Once more, Ali refused to budge when his name was called. As a result, on that same day, the New York State Athletic Commission suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his title. Other boxing commissions followed suit.

At the trial two months later, the jury, after only 21 minutes of deliberation, found Ali guilty. After a court of appeals upheld the conviction, the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. During this time, people turned against the war, and support for Ali grew. Ali financially supported himself by visiting many college universities to give speeches across the country. On June 28, 1971, the Supreme Court reversed his conviction for refusing induction by unanimous decision in Clay v. United States.

The Fight of the Century

In 1970, Ali was allowed to fight again. With the help of a state senator, he was granted a license to box in Georgia because it was the only state in America without a boxing commission. In October 1970, he stopped Jerry Quarry on a cut after three rounds. Shortly after the Quarry fight, the New York State Supreme Court ruled that Ali had been unjustly denied a boxing license. Once again able to fight in New York, he fought Oscar Bonavena at Madison Square Garden in December 1970. After a tough 14 rounds, Ali stopped Bonavena in the 15th, paving the way for a title fight against Joe Frazier, who was himself undefeated.

Ali and Frazier met in the ring on March 8, 1971, at Madison Square Garden. The fight, known as '"The Fight of the Century," was one of the most eagerly anticipated bouts of all time and remains one of the most famous. It featured two skilled, undefeated fighters, both of whom had legitimate claims to the heavyweight crown. Frank Sinatra — unable to acquire a ringside seat — took photos of the match for Life magazine. Legendary boxing announcer Don Dunphy and actor and boxing aficionado Burt Lancaster called the action for the broadcast, which reached millions of people. The fight lived up to the hype, and Frazier punctuated his victory by flooring Ali with a hard left hook in the 15th and final round. Frazier retained the title on a unanimous decision, dealing Ali his first professional loss.

Following 10 victorious fights, in 1973 Ali fought Ken Norton breaking his jaw and losing a 12 round decision. Ali won the rematch on September 10, 1973 which set up a non-title rematch with Joe Frazier on January 28, 1974. Ali won a 12 round decision.

The Rumble in the Jungle

In one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, Ali regained his title on October 30, 1974 by defeating champion George Foreman in their bout in Kinshasa, Zaire. Hyped as "The Rumble In The Jungle," the fight was promoted by Don King.

Almost no one, not even Ali's long-time supporter Howard Cosell, gave the former champion a chance of winning. Analysts pointed out that Joe Frazier and Ken Norton had given Ali four tough battles in the ring and won two of them, while Foreman had knocked out both of them in the second round. As a matter of fact, so total was the domination that, in their bout, Foreman had knocked down Frazier an incredible six times in only four minutes and 25 seconds.

During the bout, Ali employed an unexpected strategy. Leading up to the fight, he had declared he was going to "dance" and use his speed to keep away from Foreman and outbox him. However, in the first round, Ali headed straight for the champion and began scoring with a right hand lead, clearly surprising Foreman. Ali caught Foreman nine times in the first round with this technique but failed to knock him out. He then decided to take advantage of the young champion's weakness: staying power. Foreman had won 37 of his 40 bouts by knockout, mostly within three rounds. Eight of his previous bouts didn't go past the second round. Ali saw an opportunity to outlast Foreman, and capitalized on it.

In the second round, the challenger retreated to the ropes — inviting Foreman to hit him, while counterpunching and verbally taunting the younger man. Ali's plan was to enrage Foreman and absorb his best blows to exhaust him mentally and physically. While Foreman threw wide shots to Ali's body, Ali countered with stinging straight punches to Foreman's head. Foreman threw hundreds of punches in seven rounds, but with decreasing technique and potency. Ali's tactic of leaning on the ropes, covering up, and absorbing ineffective body shots was later termed "The Rope-A-Dope."

By the end of the seventh round, Foreman was exhausted. In the eighth round, Ali dropped Foreman with a combination at center ring and Foreman failed to make the count. Against the odds, Ali had regained the title. Many years later, Foreman would become champ again at age 45. Muhammad Ali (Foreman's best friend at the time) did not attend the title bout. When asked why, he said "I would deviate attention from George. It was his moment, not mine."

The "Rumble in the Jungle" was the subject of a 1996 Academy Award winning documentary film, When We Were Kings. The match was ranked seventh in the British television program The 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.

The Thrilla in Manila

After beating Foreman, Ali would have a successful string of title defenses. In March 1975, Ali faced Chuck Wepner in a bout that inspired the original Rocky. While it was largely thought that Ali would dominate, Wepner surprised everyone by not only knocking Ali down in the ninth round, but nearly going the distance. Ali eventually stopped Wepner in the fading minutes of the 15th round, but Wepner's display of courage and resilience gave Sylvester Stallone, then an aspiring writer, actor and director, the basis of the plot for the first of the Rocky franchise, which led to five sequels that have endured for 30 years. Following a title defense with Ron Lyle, in July Ali faced Joe Bugner, winning a 15 round decision. In October 1975, Ali fought Joe Frazier for the third time. The bout was promoted as the Thrilla in Manila by Don King, who had ascended to prominence following the Ali-Foreman fight. The anticipation was enormous for this final clash between two great heavyweights. Ali believed Frazier was "over the hill" by that point. Ali's frequent insults, slurs and demeaning poems increased the anticipation and excitement for the fight, but also enraged a determined Frazier. Regarding the fight, Ali famously remarked, "It will be a killa... and a chilla... and a thrilla... when I get the gorilla in Manila."

The fight lasted 14 grueling rounds in temperatures approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Ali won many of the early rounds, but Frazier staged a comeback in the middle rounds, while Ali lay on the ropes. By the late rounds, however, Ali had reasserted control and the fight was stopped when Frazier was unable to answer the bell for the 15th and final round (his eyes were swollen closed). Frazier's trainer, Eddie Futch, refused to allow Frazier to continue. Ali, in one of the toughest fights of his entire career, was quoted as saying, "It was the closest thing to death that I could feel." Another version had Ali saying, "It was like death. Closest thing to dyin' that I know of." Many historians believe the fight took a great deal out of Ali, as well as Frazier, and having left a part of themselves in the ring, both men should have retired after this fight.[17]

In February 1976 Ali easily beat Jean-Pierre Coopman. In April 1976 Ali would defeat Jimmy Young and Richard Dunn the following month, which would turn out to be Ali's last knockout victory. Following which he would fight an embarrassing exhibition with Antonio Inoki.[18] Although widely perceived as a publicity stunt, the match against Inoki would have a long-term detrimental affect on Ali's mobility. Inoki spent much of the fight on the ground trying to damage Ali’s legs, while Ali spent most of the fight dodging the kicks or staying on the ropes.[19] At the end of 15 rounds, the bout was called a draw. Ali's legs, however, were bleeding, leading to an infection. He suffered two blood clots in his legs as well.[18] That September at Yankee Stadium, Ali faced Ken Norton in their third fight, with Ali winning a close 15-round decision after a tough fight. 1977 saw Ali defend his title against Alfredo Evangelista and Earnie Shavers.

In February 1978 Ali lost the heavweight title to 1976 Olympic Champion Leon Spinks. On September 15, 1978 Ali fought a rematch in the New Orleans Louisiana Superdome against Spinks for the WBA version of the Heavyweight title. This time the fitter Ali stayed off the ropes and in the center of the ring with greater mobility. Ali defeated Spinks, winning the WBA title a record third time. Ali retired following this victory on June 27, 1979. He would return in 1980 to face Larry Holmes, to win the heavyweight title back an unprecedented four times. Angelo Dundee refused to let his man come out for the 11th round, in what became Ali's first and only loss by anything other than a decision. Ali's final fight, a loss by unanimous decision after 10 rounds, was to up-and-coming challenger Trevor Berbick in 1981.

Ali's legacy

The torch Ali used to light the flame at the 1996 Summer Olympics

Muhammad Ali defeated almost every top heavyweight in his era, which has been called the golden age of heavyweight boxing. Ali was named "Fighter of the Year" by Ring Magazine more times than any other fighter, and was involved in more Ring Magazine "Fight of the Year" bouts than any other fighter. He is an inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and holds wins over seven other Hall of Fame inductees. He is also one of only three boxers to be named "Sportsman of the Year" by Sports Illustrated.

In 1978, three years before Ali's permanent retirement, the Board of Aldermen in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky voted 6–5 to rename Walnut Street to Muhammad Ali Boulevard. This was controversial at the time, as within a week 12 of the 70 street signs were stolen. Earlier that year, a committee of the Jefferson County Public Schools considered renaming Central High School in his honor, but the motion failed to pass. At any rate, in time, Muhammad Ali Boulevard—and Ali himself—came to be well accepted in his hometown.[20]

In 1993, the Associated Press reported a Sports Marketing Group study that showed that Ali was tied with Babe Ruth as the most recognized athletes in America with over 97% of Americans identifying both Ruth and Ali.[21]

He was the recipient of the 1997 Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

In retirement

A 2004 photograph of Ali

Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's Syndrome in 1984.[22][23] Despite the disability, he remains a beloved and active public figure. In 1985, he served as a guest referee at the inaugural WrestleMania event.[24][25] In 1987 he was selected by the California Bicentennial Foundation for the U.S. Constitution to personify the vitality of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights in various high profile activities. Ali rode on a float at the 1988 Tournament of Roses Parade, launching the U.S. Constitution's 200th birthday commemoration. He also published an oral history, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser, in 1991. Ali received a Spirit of America Award calling him the most recognized American in the world. In 1996, he had the honor of lighting the flame at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Muhammad Ali Center, alongside Interstate 64 on Louisville's riverfront

He appeared at the 1998 AFL (Australian Football League) Grand Final, where Anthony Pratt invited him to watch the game. He also greets runners at the start line of the Los Angeles Marathon every year.

In 1999, the BBC produced a special version of its annual BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award ceremony, and Ali was voted their Sports Personality of the Century,[26] receiving more votes than the other four contenders combined. His daughter Laila Ali also became a boxer in 1999,[27] despite her father's earlier comments against female boxing in 1978: "Women are not made to be hit in the breast, and face like that... the body's not made to be punched right here [patting his chest]. Get hit in the breast... hard... and all that."[28]

On September 13, 1999, Ali was named "Kentucky Athlete of the Century" by the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame in ceremonies at the Galt House East.[29]

Ali's Presidential Medal of Freedom on display at the Ali Center

In 2001, a biographical film, entitled Ali, was made, directed by Michael Mann, with Will Smith starring as Ali. The film received mixed reviews, with the positives generally attributed to the acting, as Smith and supporting actor Jon Voight earned Academy Award nominations. Prior to making the Ali movie, Will Smith had continually rejected the role of Ali until Muhammad Ali personally requested that he accept the role. According to Smith, the first thing Ali said about the subject to Smith was: "You ain't pretty enough to play me."

On November 17, 2002, Muhammad Ali went to Afghanistan as "U.N. Messenger of Peace".[30] He was in Kabul for a three-day goodwill mission as a special guest of the United Nations.[31]

He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony on November 9, 2005,[32][33] and the "Otto Hahn peace medal in Gold" of the United Nations Association of Germany (DGVN) in Berlin for his work with the US civil rights movement and the United Nations (December 17, 2005).

On November 19, 2005 (Ali's 19th wedding anniversary), the $60 million non-profit Muhammad Ali Center opened in downtown Louisville. In addition to displaying his boxing memorabilia, the center focuses on core themes of peace, social responsibility, respect, and personal growth.

As Mrs. Lonnie Ali looks on, President George W. Bush embraces Muhammad Ali after presenting him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 9, 2005, during ceremonies at the White House.

According to the Ali Center 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. Ali travels, on average, more than 200 days per year."

At the FedEx Orange Bowl on January 2, 2007, Ali was an honorary captain for the Louisville Cardinals wearing their white jersey, number 19. Ali was accompanied by golf legend Arnold Palmer, who was the honorary captain for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, and Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade.

A youth club in Ali's hometown and a species of rose (Rosa ali) have also been named after him. On June 5, 2007, he received an honorary doctorate of humanities at Princeton University's 260th graduation ceremony.[34]

Ali lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with his fourth wife, Yolanda 'Lonnie' Ali.[35] They own a house in Berrien Springs, Michigan, which is for sale. On January 9, 2007, they purchased a house in eastern Jefferson County, Kentucky for $1,875,000.[36]

Ranking in heavyweight history

There is no consensus among boxing experts and historians as to who is the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time. Ring Magazine, a prominent boxing magazine, named Muhammad Ali as number 1 in a 1998 ranking of greatest heavyweights from all eras.[37] In a 1971 article, Nat Fleischer, the founder of the Ring who saw every heavyweight champion from Jim Jeffries to Joe Frazier, refused to include Ali in his all-time top ten, saying: "he does not qualify for rating with the greatest heavyweights of all time".[38] Fleischer was writing after Ali's loss to Frazier, several years before his performance against Foreman and rematches with Frazier.

Recently, Ali was named the second greatest fighter in boxing history by behind only welterweight and middleweight great Sugar Ray Robinson.[39] In December 2007, ESPN listed its choice of the greatest heavyweights of all time. Ali was second on this list also behind Joe Louis, despite the fact that the earlier poll placed Ali ahead of Louis.[40]

Personal life

Muhammad Ali has been married four times and has seven daughters and two sons. Ali met his first wife, cocktail waitress Sonji Roi, approximately one month before they married on August 14, 1964. Roi's objections to certain Muslim customs in regard to dress for women contributed to the breakup of their marriage. They divorced on January 10, 1966.

On August 17, 1967, Ali (aged 25) married 17-year old Belinda Boyd. After the wedding, she converted to Islam and changed her name to Khalilah Ali, though she was still called Belinda by old friends and family. They had four children: Maryum (b. 1968), Jamillah and Liban (b. 1970), and Muhammad Ali Jr. (b. 1972).[citation needed]

In 1975, Ali began an affair with Veronica Porsche, an actress and model. By the summer of 1977, Ali's second marriage was over and he had married Veronica.[41] At the time of their marriage, they had a baby girl, Hana, and Veronica was pregnant with their second child. Their second daughter, Laila, was born in December 1977. By 1986, Ali and Veronica were divorced.

On November 19, 1986, Ali married Yolanda Ali. They had been friends since 1964 in Louisville. They have one adopted son, Asaad.[citation needed]

Ali has two other daughters, Miya and Khaliah, from extramarital relationships.[42]

Ali in the media and popular culture

As a world champion boxer and social activist, Ali has been the subject of numerous books, films and other creative works. He has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated on 37 different occasions, second only to Michael Jordan.[43] His autobiography The Greatest: My Own Story, written with Richard Durham, was published in 1975.[44] When We Were Kings, a 1996 documentary about the Rumble in the Jungle, won an Academy Award,[45] and the 2001 biopic Ali garnered an Oscar nomination for Will Smith's portrayal of the lead role.[46]

For contributions to the theater industries, Muhammad Ali was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6801 Hollywood Boulevard.[47]

Professional boxing record

56 Wins (37 knockouts, 19 decisions), 5 Losses (4 decisions, 1 retirement), 0 Draws[48]
Res. Opponent Type Rd., Time Date Location Notes
Loss Trevor Berbick Decision (unanimous) 10 (10) 1981-12-11 Flag of the Bahamas Nassau, Bahamas
Loss Larry Holmes Corner retirement 10 (15) 1980-10-02 Flag of the United States Las Vegas, NV Match was for WBC Heavyweight title
Win Leon Spinks Decision (unanimous) 15 (15) 1978-09-15 Flag of the United States New Orleans, LA Won WBA Heavyweight title;
Vacated title on 1979-09-06
Loss Leon Spinks Decision (split) 15 (15) 1978-02-15 Flag of the United States Las Vegas, NV Lost WBA/WBC Heavyweight titles
Win Earnie Shavers Decision (unanimous) 15 (15) 1977-09-29 Flag of the United States New York City, NY Retained WBA/WBC Heavyweight titles
Win Alfredo Evangelista Decision (unanimous) 15 (15) 1977-05-16 Flag of the United States Landover, MD Retained WBA/WBC Heavyweight titles
Win Ken Norton Decision (unanimous) 15 (15) 1976-09-28 Flag of the United States The Bronx, New York Retained WBA/WBC Heavyweight titles
Win Richard Dunn TKO 5 (15) 1976-05-24 Flag of Germany Munich, Germany Retained WBA/WBC Heavyweight titles
Win Jimmy Young Decision (unanimous) 15 (15) 1976-04-30 Flag of the United States Landover, MD Retained WBA/WBC Heavyweight titles
Win Jean-Pierre Coopman KO 5 (15) 1976-02-20 Flag of Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico Retained WBA/WBC Heavyweight titles
Win Joe Frazier TKO 14 (15), 0:59 1975-10-01 Flag of the Philippines Quezon City, Philippines "The Thrilla in Manila";
Retained WBA/WBC Heavyweight titles
Win Joe Bugner Decision (unanimous) 15 (15) 1975-06-30 Flag of Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Retained WBA/WBC Heavyweight titles
Win Ron Lyle TKO 11 (15) 1975-05-16 Flag of the United States Las Vegas, NV Retained WBA/WBC Heavyweight titles
Win Chuck Wepner TKO 15 (15), 2:41 1975-03-24 Flag of the United States Richfield, OH Retained WBA/WBC Heavyweight titles
Win George Foreman KO 8 (15), 2:58 1974-10-30 Flag of Zaire Kinshasa, Zaire "The Rumble in the Jungle";
Won WBA/WBC Heavyweight titles
Win Joe Frazier Decision (unanimous) 12 (12) 1974-01-28 Flag of the United States New York City, NY Retained NABF Heavyweight title;
Vacated title later in 1974
Win Rudi Lubbers Decision (unanimous) 12 (12) 1973-10-20 Flag of Indonesia Jakarta, Indonesia
Win Ken Norton Decision (split) 12 (12) 1973-09-10 Flag of the United States Inglewood, CA Won NABF Heavyweight title
Loss Ken Norton Decision (split) 12 (12) 1973-03-31 Flag of the United States San Diego, CA Lost NABF Heavyweight title
Win Joe Bugner Decision (unanimous) 12 (12) 1973-02-14 Flag of the United States Las Vegas, NV
Win Bob Foster KO 7 (12) 1972-11-21 Flag of the United States Stateline, NV Retained NABF Heavyweight title
Win Floyd Patterson TKO 7 (12) 1972-09-20 Flag of the United States New York City, NY Retained NABF Heavyweight title
Win Alvin Lewis TKO 11 (12), 1:15 1972-07-19 Flag of Ireland Dublin, Ireland
Win Jerry Quarry TKO 7 (12), 0:19 1972-06-27 Flag of the United States Las Vegas, NV Retained NABF Heavyweight title
Win George Chuvalo Decision (unanimous) 12 (12) 1972-05-01 Flag of Canada Vancouver, Canada Retained NABF Heavyweight title
Win Mac Foster Decision (unanimous) 15 (15) 1972-04-01 Flag of Japan Tokyo, Japan
Win Jürgen Blin KO 7 (12), 2:12 1971-12-26 Zurich, Switzerland
Win Buster Mathis Decision (unanimous) 12 (12) 1971-11-17 Flag of the United States Houston, TX Retained NABF Heavyweight title
Win Jimmy Ellis TKO 12 (12), 2:10 1971-07-26 Flag of the United States Houston, TX Won vacant NABF Heavyweight title
Loss Joe Frazier Decision (unanimous) 15 (15) 1971-03-08 Flag of the United States New York City, NY "The Fight of the Century";
Match was for WBA/WBC Heavyweight
Win Oscar Bonavena TKO 15 (15), 2:03 1970-12-07 Flag of the United States New York City, NY Won NABF Heavyweight title;
Vacated title in 1971
Win Jerry Quarry TKO 3 (15) 1970-10-26 Flag of the United States Atlanta, GA
Win Zora Folley KO 7 (15), 1:48 1967-03-22 Flag of the United States New York City, NY Retained WBA/WBC Heavyweight titles;
Stripped of titles on 1967-04-28
Win Ernie Terrell Decision (unanimous) 15 (15) 1967-02-06 Flag of the United States Houston, TX Retained WBC Heavyweight title,
Won WBA Heavyweight title
Win Cleveland Williams TKO 3 (15) 1966-11-14 Flag of the United States Houston, TX Retained WBC Heavyweight title
Win Karl Mildenberger TKO 12 (15) 1966-09-10 Flag of Germany Frankfurt, Germany Retained WBC Heavyweight title
Win Brian London KO 3 (15) 1966-08-06 Flag of the United Kingdom London England Retained WBC Heavyweight title
Win Henry Cooper TKO 6 (15), 1:38 1966-05-21 Flag of the United Kingdom London, England Retained WBC Heavyweight title
Win George Chuvalo Decision (unanimous) 15 (15) 1966-03-29 Flag of Canada Toronto, Canada Retained WBC Heavyweight title
Win Floyd Patterson TKO 12 (15), 2:18 1965-11-22 Flag of the United States Las Vegas, NV Retained WBC Heavyweight title
Win Sonny Liston KO 1 (15), 2:12 1965-05-25 Flag of the United States Lewiston, ME Retained WBC Heavyweight title
Win Sonny Liston Corner retirement 7 (15) 1964-02-25 Flag of the United States Miami Beach, FL Won WBA/WBC Heavyweight titles;
Stripped of WBA title on 1964-06-19
Win Henry Cooper TKO 5 (10), 2:15 1963-06-18 Flag of the United Kingdom London, England
Win Doug Jones Decision (unanimous) 10 (10) 1963-03-13 Flag of the United States New York City, NY
Win Charley Powell KO 3, 2:04 1963-01-24 Flag of the United States Pittsburgh, PA
Win Archie Moore TKO 4 (10), 1:35 1962-11-15 Flag of the United States Los Angeles, CA
Win Alejandro Lavorante KO 5 (10), 1:48 1962-07-20 Flag of the United States Los Angeles, CA
Win Billy Daniels TKO 7 (10), 2:21 1962-05-19 Flag of the United States Los Angeles, CA
Win George Logan TKO 4 (10), 1:34 1962-04-23 Flag of the United States New York City, NY
Win Don Warner TKO 4, 0:34 1962-03-28 Flag of the United States Miami Beach, FL
Win Sonny Banks TKO 4 (10), 0:26 1962-02-10 Flag of the United States New York City, NY
Win Willi Besmanoff TKO 7 (10), 1:55 1961-11-29 Flag of the United States Louisville, KY
Win Alex Miteff TKO 6 (10), 1:45 1961-10-07 Flag of the United States Louisville, KY
Win Alonzo Johnson Decision (unanimous) 10 (10) 1961-07-22 Flag of the United States Louisville, KY
Win Duke Sabedong Decision (unanimous) 10 (10) 1961-06-26 Flag of the United States Las Vegas, NV
Win LaMar Clark KO 2 (10), 1:27 1961-04-19 Flag of the United States Louisville, KY
Win Donnie Fleeman TKO 7 (8) 1961-02-21 Flag of the United States Miami Beach, FL
Win Jimmy Robinson KO 1 (8), 1:34 1961-02-07 Flag of the United States Miami Beach, FL
Win Tony Esperti TKO 3 (8), 1:30 1961-01-17 Flag of the United States Miami Beach, FL
Win Herb Siler KO 4 (8) 1960-12-27 Flag of the United States Miami Beach, FL
Win Tunney Hunsaker Decision (unanimous) 6 (6) 1960-10-29 Flag of the United States Louisville, KY

See also


  1. ^ "Ali crowned Sportsman of Century". BBC News. 1999-12-13. 
  2. ^ Caldwell, Deborah. "Muhammad Ali's New Spiritual Quest". Beliefnet. Retrieved on 2008-05-20. 
  3. ^ Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. by Muhammad Ali
  4. ^ January 17, 1942 in History
  5. ^ Hauser 2004, p. 14
  6. ^ Kandel, Elmo (2006-04-01). "Boxing Legend - Muhammad Ali". Article Click (Elmo Kandel). Retrieved on 2009-03-09. 
  7. ^ "Muhammad Ali". University of Florida. Retrieved on 2008-05-20. 
  8. ^ . 
  9. ^ Entered bouts for Kent Green
  10. ^ "Muhammad Ali Timeline". Infoplease. Retrieved on 2008-05-20. 
  11. ^ Biographies: Muhammad Ali
  12. ^ "Boxing Classics - Sonny Liston v Cassius Clay - February 25, 1964". Saddo Boxing. Retrieved on 2008-05-20. 
  13. ^ a b c d e Lipsyte, Robert (1964-02-26). "Clay Wins Title in Seventh-Round Upset As Liston Is Halted by Shoulder Injury". New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-12-27. 
  14. ^ a b Hauser, Thomas (2003-11-02). "The living flame". Observer.,,1072751,00.html. Retrieved on 2008-05-20. 
  15. ^ ""The Greatest" Is Gone". Time. 1978-02-27. p. 5.,9171,919377-5,00.html. Retrieved on 2007-08-04. 
  16. ^ "This Week in Black History". Jet. 1994-05-02. Retrieved on 2007-08-04. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ a b Tallent, Aaron. "The Joke That Almost Ended Ali's Career". The Sweet Science. Retrieved on 2007-12-04. 
  19. ^ "Inoki vs. Ali Footage". YouTube. Retrieved on 2007-12-04. 
  20. ^ Hill, Bob (2005-11-19). "Ali stirs conflicting emotions in hometown". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved on 2006-12-22. 
  21. ^ Retton, Hammill most popular American athletes; Wilstein, Steve, Associated Press; 17 May 1993
  22. ^ Thomas Jr., Robert McG.. "Change In Drug Helps Ali Improve". New York Times (1984-09-20): pp. D-29. Retrieved on 2009-03-09. 
  23. ^ "Ali Leaves Hospital Vowing to take better care of himself and get more sleep,". New York Times (1984-09-222). Retrieved on 2009-03-09. 
  24. ^ WrestleMania I: Celebrities
  25. ^ McAvennie, Mike (2007-01-17). "Happy Birthday to “The Greatest”". Retrieved on 2009-02-16. 
  26. ^ BBC Sports Personality: Past winners 1998-2004
  27. ^ Women's Boxing - Laila Ali
  28. ^ Boxing- Muhammad Ali
  29. ^ Spears, Marc J. (1999-09-14). "Ali: The Greatest of 20th century; Show stops when the champ arrives for awards dinner". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved on 2007-01-07. [dead link]
  30. ^ UN Messenger of Peace Muhammad Ali arrives in Afghanistan
  31. ^ "Muhammad Ali visits Kabul". Getty Images. Retrieved on 2008-05-20. 
  32. ^ William Plumber (2003-11-03). "Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients". White House Press Secretary. Archived from the original on 2008-03-06. Retrieved on 2008-05-20. 
  33. ^ "Bush presents Ali with Presidential Medal of Freedom". ESPN. 2005-11-14. Retrieved on 2009-02-16. 
  34. ^ Ryan, Joe (2007-06-05). "Boxing legend Ali gets Princeton degree". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved on 2007-06-05. 
  35. ^ Dahlberg, Tim (2007-01-17). "Ali turns 65 with a whisper and twinkle". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved on 2007-01-18. 
  36. ^ Shafer, Sheldon S. (2007-01-25). "Ali coming home, buys house in Jefferson County". The Courier-Journal.,%20buys%20louisville%20house.pdf. Retrieved on 2007-01-25. 
  37. ^ Was Ali the Greatest Heavyweight?
  38. ^ "CLAY AN ALL-TIME TOP 10?". The Ring Online. Retrieved on 2008-05-20. [dead link]
  39. ^
  40. ^ ESPN Classic Ringside: Top 10 Heavyweights
  41. ^ Veronica Porsche Anderson Topics Page
  42. ^ The Biography Channel - Muhammed Ali Biography
  43. ^ Magazine of the Week (9/28/06): Sports Illustrated November 28, 1983
  44. ^ Durham, Richard; Ali, Muhammad (1975). The greatest, my own story. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-394-46268-8. OCLC 1622063. 
  45. ^ When We Were Kings (1996)
  46. ^ Ali (2001)
  47. ^ "Hollywood Walk of Fame database". 
  48. ^ "boxer: Muhammad Ali". BoxRec. Retrieved on 2008-05-20. 


External links

Preceded by
Sonny Liston
WBA Heavyweight boxing champion
1964-02-25 – 1964-06-19 (Stripped)
Succeeded by
Ernie Terrell
filled vacancy
WBC Heavyweight boxing champion
1964-02-25 – 1967-04-28 (Stripped)
Succeeded by
Joe Frazier
filled vacancy
Preceded by
Ernie Terrell
WBA Heavyweight boxing champion
1967-02-06 – 1967-04-28 (Stripped)
Succeeded by
Jimmy Ellis
filled vacancy
Preceded by
Leotis Martin (Vacated)
NABF Heavyweight boxing champion
1970-12-17 – 1971 (Vacated)
Succeeded by
George Foreman
filled vacancy
Preceded by
George Foreman (Vacated)
NABF Heavyweight boxing champion
1971-07-26 – 1973-03-31
Succeeded by
Ken Norton
Preceded by
Ken Norton
NABF Heavyweight boxing champion
1973-09-10 – 1974 (Vacated)
Succeeded by
Ken Norton
filled vacancy
Preceded by
George Foreman
WBA Heavyweight boxing champion
1974-10-30 – 1978-02-15
Succeeded by
Leon Spinks
WBC Heavyweight boxing champion
1974-10-30 – 1978-02-15
Preceded by
Leon Spinks
WBA Heavyweight boxing champion
1978-09-15 – 1979-09-06 (Vacated)
Succeeded by
John Tate
filled vacancy
Preceded by
Antonio Rebollo
Barcelona 1992
Final Summer Olympic Torchbearer
Muhammad Ali

Atlanta 1996
Succeeded by
Cathy Freeman
Sydney 2000
Preceded by
United Press International
Athlete of the Year

Succeeded by
João Carlos de Oliveira
Preceded by
O.J. Simpson
Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Fred Lynn
Preceded by
O.J. Simpson
Hickok Belt Winner
Succeeded by
Pete Rose
NAME Ali, Muhammad
ALTERNATIVE NAMES Clay, Cassius Marcellus, Jr. (prior to conversion to Islam)
SHORT DESCRIPTION American boxer, world heavyweight champion, Olympic gold medalist; anti-Vietnam War activist
DATE OF BIRTH January 17, 1942
PLACE OF BIRTH Louisville, Kentucky

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