Muhammad Ali was not only the greatest boxer of all times but considering his contribution and impact on the society he was arguably the best sportsperson of all times. Loaded with extraordinary boxing talent and with immense confidence in his abilities he always praised himself. He was famous for his self -promotion and boosting himself in pre match press conferences. But he lived up to his braggadocio which is evident in his career stats of 56 winning bouts and just 5 losses which includes astonishing 37 knockouts. He also became the first player to claim the world heavyweight title on three occassions. The combination of powerful jabs and lightining foot speed made him lethal and unbeatable in the ring. Ali did not loose a single bout in his first 31 appearances in the ring.
We lost this great champion on June 3 , 2016 after his prolonged illness with Parkinson’s syndrome. Let take a glance at the famed career of this legend.
- Early Life: Born on Jan 17 , 1942 in Louisville with original name Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. At 12, an incident changed his life. His bicycle was stolen and he went to the police station to lodge a complaint, wanting to hit the culprit. Officer Joe Martin who was also a boxing trainer encouraged him to first learn how to fight. For Six weeks Officer Martin trained Cassius Clay which turned his life.
- Amateur Career: Cassius Clay began his career in 1954 and won his first amateur bout with split decision. In 1956 he won the Golden Gloves tournament. He followed it with winning National Golden Gloves tournament. He first came into the limelight in 1960, when he won the light heavyweight gold medal in Rome Olympics. Winning the Olympic medal earned him global recognition and he was all over in the national newspaper.
- Professional Career & World Heavy Weight title:
Clay began his professional career on Oct 29, 1960 and took the boxing ring by storm. Winning bouts one after the other he went on to win his first 19 bouts with 15 knockouts. Then arrived the golden occassion as he got his first shot at the world heavyweight title. On Feb 25, 1964 he got to fight against reigning heavyweight champion Sonny Liston in Florida. Clay lived up to his pre-match press conference promise to “float like a butterfly,sting like a bee” and defeated Liston to claim his first World heavyweight title.
- Conversion to Islam and name change:
After winning his first World heavyweight title, Clay declared in the press conference the next morning that he had accepted Islam religion. On March 6, 1964, Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad gave Clay his new name Muhammad Ali.
- Ban on Ali:
Muhammad Ali was inducted in the US Army for the Vietnam war in 1967. But due to his religious beliefs Ali refused to serve in the army and was suspended by the State Athletic Commission. Even his heavyweight title was revoked. For three years he was banned from boxing.
- Ali’s Comeback and claiming the heavyweight title again:
After being away from professional boxing from 43 months, Muhammad Ali returned to the ring in Oct, 1970 and knocked out Jerry Quary.In 1971, Ali got the opportunity to fight against the reigning champion Joe Frazier to regain the heavyweight title. The bout went the full distance of 15 rounds but Ali lost in a unanimous decision. This was Ali’s first professional defeat.
Ali did defeat Frazier six months later in rematch which earned him to fight against George Foreman for the heavyweight title. Ali wasn’t going to miss out on this opportunity and in 1974, he beat George Foreman in a fight termed as ” Rumble in the Jungle” to regain his heavyweight title for second time.
- Third time heavyweight champion:
After claiming the heavyweight title for second time in 1974 , Muhammad Ali defended the title for 10 fights. In Jan, 1978 he lost his title to Leon Spinks only to regain it seven months later in a rematch. By doing this Ali became the first boxer to claim the heavyweight title three times.
- Retirement & Diagnosed with Parkinson disease:
In 1979 Muhammad Ali announced his retirement but later tried to make a comeback which wasn’t successful. In 1980 he lost to Larry Homes and in 1981 he lost to Trevor Berbick which prompted him to finally bid adieu to pro boxing.
In 1984 Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson disease which limited his public appearance.
- Rewards & Praises:
- In 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Ali had the privilege of lighting the cauldron during the opening ceremony.
- Ali was voted the “Sporting Personality of the Century” in 1999.
- In 2005, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in White House.
- Ring Magazine named Ali ” Fighter of the Year” for five times , which was more than any other boxer.
Legend passed away on June 3, 2016.