A sad day for the world of sports as boxer and civil rights activist, Muhammad Ali passed away yesterday at the age 74, due to respiratory complications.
Born with the name, Cassius Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky, his boxing career began at the mere age of 12. When Clay was young, a police officer named Joe Martin saw him fuming after another boy stole his bike. Clay said to Martin that he was going to “whup”him. Martin was quick to recruit Clay, saying that he should learn how to box first, and that he did.
In 1954, Clay’s amateur career began, during this time he went on to win six Kentucky Golden Gloves, two National Golden Gloves, and Amateur Athletic Union national title. Clay also made it to the 1960 Olympics in Rome where he won the Light Heavyweight Gold medal. He ended his amateur career with a record of 100 wins and 5 losses.
On October 29, 1960 Clay turned pro amassing a 19-0 record with 15 knockouts (KO’s) while becoming the number one contender for Sonny Liston’s Heavyweight title. Clay was a 7-1 underdog in the fight while many thought that it would be a quick victory for Liston. But this was not the case as Clay came out firing an dominated much of the match; winning in the 7th round by Technical knockout (TKO).
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Shortly after the first championship bout with Liston in 1963, Clay converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Ali proceeded to defend his title a number of times until getting it stripped due to his refusal to be drafted to army service. From March 1967 to October of 1970, Ali did not fight.
In 1971, Ali won his Supreme Court Case by a decision of 8-0 and was reinstated.
On March 8, 1971 “The Fight of the Century” occurred when Ali took on current heavyweight champ, Joe Frazier. During this fight Ali debuted his famous “rope-a-dope strategy.” Unfortunately, Ali lost by unanimous decision.
This loss set the stage for his next title fight also known as, “The Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire. Ali defeated Foreman regaining the title for the first time since he lost it in 1967.
Ali then moved on to his next big fight against Joe Frazier for the decisive third time. The famous fight known as the “Thrilla in Manila.” With temperatures rising to 100 degrees fahrenheit, Ali won after an excruciating 14 rounds of boxing after Frazier’s trainer refused to let him come out for the 15th round.
Ali’s boxing career came to an unceremonious end in 1980-81 losing his first fight by knockout. Ali stayed active after his boxing career. Ali was involved in a number of diplomatic negotiations, including the release of American Hostages with Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein. He also served as the Ambassador of Peace traveling to Afghanistan on a three day goodwill mission. In 1996, Ali was bestowed with the honor of lighting the Olympic Flame in Atlanta.
Ali had dealt with many health issues through the years after his boxing career including a 32 year battle with Parkinson’s disease. Ali had been hospitalized a number of times throughout the last 3 years, this time it was pneumonia and he was unable to recover.
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”- Muhammad Ali
RIP to “The Greatest” January 17, 1942- June 3, 2016.