Muhammad Ali - Boxing Legend

Published: 10th February 2012
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Muhammad Ali was 70 on January 17th, 2012. He was the most feared opponent in the boxing ring in his long and active career and with very good reason. He won the world heavy weight boxing championship three times after winning a gold medal at the Olympics and was voted sportsman of the century by the BBC and Sports Illustrated.

Muhammad Ali was born in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17th, 1942 and was christened after his father Cassius Marcellus Clay. They added the handle Junior, to distinguish him from his father who was a billboard painter. In 1967, Cassius changed his name to Muhammad Ali and became a Muslim.

A local white Louisville police officer named Joe E. Martin was the first person to notice that the young Clay had something extraordinary while he watched him fighting over a stolen bicycle as a twelve tear old. Martin encouraged Clay to go to the boxing ring with him. Martin and Clay trained together at Stoner's Gym.

Martin and Ali used to perform a show together called 'Tomorrow's Champions'. Stone was a good coach for Ali and he remained his tutor for almost all his amateur career (the last four years he was with Chuck Bodak).

As an amateur Ali won six Kentucky Golden Gloves, two National Golden Gloves, an Amateur Athletic Union title and the Gold Medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics for light-heavyweight boxing.

His record as an amateur was 100 wins and five losses. Ali was both hero-worshipped and ridiculed in his motherland. After Ali changed his name he refused to recognize the name Clay, saying that his family had been given it by slave-owners.

He was also accused of switching his religion to dodge the draft, but his famous reply to that allegation was: "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong... No Viet Cong ever called me nigger". In 1966 he was banned from fighting in the USA. Ali was stripped of his boxing titles and his boxing license was suspended. So he fought abroad, frequently in the United Kingdom.

Ali's first title fight was against Sonny Liston on February 25 1964, but it was nearly cancelled, because it became known that Ali had joined Malcolm X's Nation of Islam. The promoter, Bill Faversham. was worried that that may ruin the attendance figures, because Ali was not considered likely to win anyway (7:1 against).

Ali agreed not to authenticate that he had associations with Malcolm X until after the fight and it went ahead. At the weigh in, Ali's pulse was 120 as opposed to his standard of 54 and his opponent's team misinterpretted this for anxiety. This was the time that Ali, the Louisville Lip, first said that he was going to "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee".

Ali saw his first professional defeat in 1971 against Joe Frazier, although he won the title back from George Foreman in 1974. This was the famous 'Rumble in the Jungle' which had political overtones.

It was ranked seventh in 'The 100 Greatest Sporting Moments'. Ali's bout against Chuck Wepner in 1975 inspired the film 'Rocky', which won the Academy Award.

Ali announced his retirement on June 27th 1979, but made a comeback 18 months later in October 1980. He finally retired in 1981, but before that the aldermen of Louisville renamed Walnut Street 'Muhammad Ali Boulevard'. A dozen of the seventy street signs were stolen within a week.

In 1984, Ali was diagnosed as having Altzeimer's, which individuals who have head shocks are more liable to get. In spite of his illness, Ali has worked tirelessly for peace and equality and has represented America at a number of international peace negotiations.

He has won more prizes than anyone could possibly remember and founde a $60 million not for profit centre in Louisville which houses his awards, but is there to promote peace, social responsibility, respect and personal growth.

On average, Ali travels more than 200 days a year to raise money for and awareness of poverty and hunger. It has been estimated that he has helped supply over 22,000,000 meals.

Angelo Dundee, Ali's cornerman and trainer from 1960-1981 died on February 1st 2012 at the age of 90,

Owen Jones, the writer of this piece, writes on a range of topics, but is now concerned with Quotes On Mixed Martial Arts. If you would like to know more, go to our website at Mixed Martial Arts Quotes

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