Born on January 17, 1942, Muhammad Ali was one of the fearful boxers of his time. He has won the World Heavyweight Championship thrice and also a gold metal at the Olympics. BBC and the Sports Illustrated gave him the title of Sportsman of the Century.
His birth name was Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., named after his father who was a billboard painter by profession, and his birthplace is Louisville, Kentucky. Muhammad Ali changed his name after converting to Islam in 1975, after which he joined Nation of Islam.
Joe E. Martin, a Louisville police officer, was his first encouragement when he caught Ali fighting over his stolen bicycle. He used to do a show named Tomorrow’s Champions, with Martin and at the same time went to Stoner’s Gym, as Stoner was a better coach. Stoner was Ali’s coach for his amateur career. Under the coaching of Stone, Ali won six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, one Amateur Athletic Union national title and 1960 Olympic gold medal in light heavyweight. In his amateur career, he had hundred wins and five losses.
After the victory at the Olympics, Muhammad Ali went back to Louisville to start his professional career. His first victory in the professional career was a six-round decision over Tunney Hunsaker. Some of boxers who were defeated by Ali are Jim Robinson, Tony Esperti, Donnie Fleeman, George Logan, Alonzo Johnson, Lamar Clark, Willi Besmanoff, Henry Cooper and Doug Jones.
When Ali converted to Islam, he refused to respond to his surname as he was told that that was the name given by white men to his slave ancestors. His refusal to react to his name and to join the American military, created a controversy and he was banned to fight in United States of America in the year 1966. After which he defended his title 9 times in England. He defeated Brian London, Karl Mildenberger and Henry Cooper. In 1967, Ali was deprived of his title by the professional boxing commission and wasn’t given the permission for three years to fight professionally. He was sentenced to jail for five years for refusing to serve the army. He began fighting in 1970 and in 1971; the Supreme Court reversed his conviction.
In 1970, a feature film was released based on a boxing match between Rocky Marciano and Ali. And in 2005, the super fight and a documentary were also released on a two disc DVD. The Fight of the Century was named after the fight between Muhammad Ali and Jon Frazier. They fought on March 8, 1971 and were one of the most famous matches and most eagerly anticipated. Both the fighters were undefeated and extremely skillful. Frazier won by defeating Ali with a hard left hook in the fifteenth round. Due to this defeat Ali saw his first professional loss. He won the title back again by defeating George Foreman on October 30, 1974. This fight is popularly known as The Rumble in the Jungle. This match was considered as a political symbol and Ali was made representative of the Black who was fighting against the white power. This fight was also the main theme of the documentary “When We Were Kings”, which won the Academy Award in 1996. It was given the seventh rank in a television program named The 100 Greatest Sporting Moments. Ali’s fight with Chuck Wepner, on March 24, 1975, inspired the movie Rocky that won the Academy award.
Ali announced his retirement on June 27, 1979, but it was for a very short period of time. He made a comeback on October 2, 1980 and fought with Larry Holmes for the World Heavyweight title. After the match he was diagnosed for a hole in the brain membrane. A few matches after that, Ali finally retired in 1981. In his career, he had won fifty-six matches and lost five. He won the title of world Heavyweight Boxing Champion three times.
During his career, he had defeated almost all the top Heavyweight champions and this period was named as the Golden Age of Heavyweight boxing. Ali was diagnosed with Parkinsonism in October 1983 and finally diagnosed for Pugilistic Parkinson’s syndrome. Doctors do not accept that boxing was responsible for his conditions. Mohammed Ali now lives with his wife, Yolanda Lonnie Ali, in Scottsdale, Arizona. In 1998, the Ring magazine honored Ali by giving him the title of the Greatest Heavyweight of All time. His daughter, Laila Ali, has won championship titles of IBA, IWBF and WIBA.
Ali has always contested in the heavyweight category and his height is 6′ 3”. He was an active and quick boxer and he applied this strategy to avoid punches instead of shielding the face with high raised hands.