|Born||May 6, 1937
Clifton, New Jersey
Known as the world’s most famous boxing hero, Muhammad Ali is a retired American boxer. Ali brought unprecedented speed and grace to the sport and set a bar which was not very easy to achieve. His fighting style inspired many to follow his way. He made legendary sporting accomplishments throughout his entire career. He announced his retirement on June 27, 1979.
Birth and Early Years
Muhammad Ali was born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. He was named after his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay, but Ali later changed his name after joining the Nation of Islam. In 1975, he converted to Sunni Islam. Ali has been married four times, and he has seven daughters and two sons.
Early Boxing Career
Ali was introduced to boxing at the age of twelve. He started boxing in junior high school where he learned skills from a policeman at a local gym. Before turning professional, Ali had won several amateur medals and achieved an outstanding record of 100 wins to five losses.
During his early years, Muhammad Ali won several titles, including six Kentucky Golden Gloves awards, two national Golden Gloves titles, and the Amateur Athletic Union National Titles. In 1960, he won the Light-heavyweight gold medal in the Summer Olympics that were held in Rome.
By the latter half of 1963, Ali had become one of the top contenders for the world heavyweight championship title, which was held by Sonny Liston at that time. Liston had an intimidating personality and was known as the “Big Bear.”
Ali vs. Liston
The fight was arranged for February of 1964 in Miami. Liston was not only a dominating fighter, but he was also had criminal past. He had become world champion by knocking out Floyd Patterson in the second round while Ali’s previous two victories before the title challenge were hardly inspiring. This made Liston the favorite to retain the title and Ali was the underdog by odds of 7 to 1.
However, the outcome of the fight turned out to be one of the biggest upsets in the history of boxing. Ali’s superior agility and speed helped him to negate the early attack from Liston. Towards the end of the first round, Ali counter attacked and hurled sharp jabs at him.
In the fourth round of the fight, Ali complained of blinding pain in his eye, which was caused by the ointment used by Liston’s trainer to treat his under-eye cut, which many believed was a deliberate ploy. However, Ali survived that handicap and recovered to come out on top strongly in the sixth round. In the seventh round, Liston did not answer the bell and Ali was declared the winner by TKO.
Ali fought Liston again in 1965 and defended the title. He also defended the title successfully against Floyd Patterson, Ernie Terrel, and Zora Folley.
Ali’s Exile and Comeback
Ali went into a four-year exile period when his boxing license was taken away and he was sentenced to five years in jail for dodging the draft. He was also stripped of his heavyweight boxing title. Despite this setback, Ali’s comeback after three and half years was a great hit. In October of 1970, he returned to the ring and defeated Jerry Quarry in the third round.
Rumble in the Jungle
This fight was an attempt by Muhammad Ali to win back his world heavyweight title. Millions of people sat in front of their televisions to watch the fight between Ali and George Foreman in 1974. The crowd was in favor of Foreman, who was seven years younger than Ali.
But Ali fought brilliantly by using his “rope-a-dope” tactic in which he takes punches from his opponent in an effort to wear him out. Ali defeated Foreman and regained his undisputed title.
In 1978, Ali lost his title to Leon Spinks, a boxer who is 12 years younger than him. However, he managed to win it back the same year. In 1981, he lost the final fight of his career to World Boxing Council champion Larry Holmes.
Muhammad Ali has devoted his life to helping promote world peace, civil rights, cross-cultural understanding and humanitarian and basic human values. He supports several foundations and charities. Despite being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984, Muhammad Ali still continues to work. Ali is an inspiration to several black Americans and others. Currently, he is living in Scottsdale, Arizona, with his fourth wife, Lonnie.
In 1996, Ali lit the Olympic torch at the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Ali was also presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a U.S. civilian can receive.