It's not hard to reason this one but you migh...
The Who's Who
Muhammad Ali aka Cassius Clay is one of the most beloved sports figures in history. This heavyweight boxer, who was a three-time champion, managed an impressive 56 wins—including 37 knock outs—in 61 fights.
Along with his obvious flair for boxing, Ali was known for his fast, witty and often, insightful remarks out of the ring even more than his prowess within it. Being of African American heritage, he was also a civil rights and social activist. As such, he is still idolized by millions across the globe, just like he was back in his heyday.
Ali was born in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17, 1942. His father, Cassius Clay Sr. was a local sign-painter, and his mother was a household maid.
A local police chief encouraged a young and excitable Ali to take up boxing at the age of 12. This coaxing led to an amatuer career that saw the young boxer win several local and national-level competitions. He registered 95 wins in 100 amatuer fights.
However, the icing on Ali's amatuer career was winning the light heavyweight gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Soon, he went pro, and embarked on a journey that would change the face of professional boxing forever.
Ali's first professional fight was a six-round win over Tunney Hunsaker. Over the next couple of years, Ali went on to beat 19 opponents—of which he knocked out 15—and didn't lose a single bout. As his legend grew, so did his confidence, and soon Ali started correctly predicting the round in which he would finish off his opponents!
After he won 1963's "fight of the year" against Doug Jones, Ali was touted as the top contender for the heavyweight title. Finally, he got his first title shot against Sonny Liston—who was a 7-1 favorite—on February 15, 1964. In a controversial seventh round decision, Ali won by a technical knock out, and thereafter uttered his famous words: "I'm the greatest!"
At 22, Ali became the then-youngest boxer to win the heavyweight belt. Still going by Cassius Clay, he converted to Islam, and a week after winning the world title, he officially changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
However, Ali had to fight Liston again in 13 months due to the controversy surrounding his win. This was one of easiest decisions of his career, which saw him knocking out Liston in the first round itself!
Ali then went on a rampage, and he successfully defended his title against several American and international opponents. But his best fight was against Cleveland Williams in Houston in 1966. In a display of great boxing skills and footwork, Ali didn't make a single error in the three-round fight that was witnessed by over 35,000 fans in an indoor stadium.
In 1967, Ali finally got his hands on Ernie Terrell, who had been avoiding a confrontation with him. In a 15-round beat down, Ali didn't go for the knock out, because he wanted to punish Terrell for calling him by his "slave name" Clay! It was clear to one and all that Ali was indeed the greatest!
Unfortunately, just when Ali was in the best shape of his life, he was banned from professinoal boxing for three years. His crime was that he opposed the Vietnam War, and refused to enlist in the mandatory US Army draft. He even famously stated, "I ain't got no quarrel with the Vietcong. No Vietcong ever called me N*gg*r," and refused to be party to a war he thought would further the domination of the "white slave-masters" over "dark people."
In 1970, while his case was still being appealed, Ali got a chance to fight again. After a couple of routine (and flashy) wins, Ali went all in, in the hunt for the title. This time his foe was the undefeated Joe Frazier. On March 8, 1971 at New York's Madison Square Garden, Ali was handed the first loss of his professional career. This 15-round battle lived up to all the hype and was dubbed "The Fight Of The Century." However, Ali did win a non-title rematch on January 28, 1974 against Frazier, who had by then lost the title to George Foreman.
This paved the way for "The Rumble In The Jungle"—a fight between Ali and Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire on October 30, 1974. Coming into this bout as a heavy underdog, Ali stunned the entire world by reclaiming the heavyweight title in eight rounds. To date, this fight is considered to be one of the greatest upsets in boxing.
Despite a few close calls—most notably against Chuck Wepner—Ali continued with his winning ways. He finally, faced Frazier for the third time in the "Thrilla in Manila." Ali won a hard-fought 15-round fight in searing heat and humidity, which knocked the wind out of Frazier.
After defending his title successfully for a couple of years, Ali finally lost to Leon Spinks in February 1978. But he retained the belt the same year on September 15. Ali retired in June 1979, and tried a comeback in 1980 against then-champion Larry Holmes. However, he lost that bout, and ended up retiring for good after his 1981 loss to Trevor Berbick.
Along with being a world-class athlete, Ali was also quite the ladies' man. He's currently married to his fourth wife, Yolanda. He has a total of nine kids, but the most famous of his offspring has to be his boxer daughter Laila Ali, who went undefeated in her 24-fight career!
A few years after his retirement, Ali developed Parkinson's syndrome, and has sadly been reduced to but a shadow of his former loquacious self!
- "A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life."
- "At home I am a nice guy: but I don't want the world to know. Humble people, I've found, don't get very far."
- "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."
- "Hating people because of their colour is wrong. And it doesn't matter which colour does the hating. It's just plain wrong."
- "I am the astronaut of boxing. Joe Louis and Dempsey were just jet pilots. I'm in a world of my own."
- "I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was."
- "I figure I'll be champ for about ten years and then I'll let my brother take over — like the Kennedys down in Washington."
- "I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world."
- "I'm so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark."
- "I'm the most recognized and loved man that ever lived because there weren't no satellites when Jesus and Moses were around, so people far away in the villages didn't know about them."
Years after retirement, Ali is still a big part of any conversation regarding the best athlete of all time. In fact, both BBC and Sports Illustrated honored him as the greatest athlete of the 20th century.
Several books have been written about Ali's life and even his individual fights. His story has also been told in several Hollywood films—most notably in the award-winning, Will Smith starrer Ali.
However, Ali will always be known for his ground-breaking style in the ring and off it. He brought flash and flair to boxing, and made it a sport for the masses. And finally, he's one of the few athletes in the world who was supremely confident in his abilities, and backed his words with one smashing performance after another.
-Picture courtesy Reuters-
you might also like
With Skyfall, director Sam Mendes mixes the old an...
If Bollywood ever went down the 007 agent route, w...