Muhammad Ali was an exceptional boxer and a cultural icon. Born with the name Cassius Clay, Clay began pursuing a boxing career during his teenage years. He remained an amateur boxer until after the 1960 Rome Olympic games. At the height of his career in 1964, Clay joined the Nation of Islam and changed his named to Muhammad Ali.
Muhammad Ali was considered one of the most popular athletes in the world during his prime. His boastful demeanor was unorthodox to the boxing world at the time. Standing over 6 feet tall, Ali was extraordinarily quick for his size. He created his own unique fighting strategies that most boxing fans criticized, but they worked for Ali.
Muhammad Ali is also recognized for being a political activist and philanthropist. He stood strong for the causes he believed in, especially during and after the Civil Rights movement. Ali also traveled across the globe to help increase the living standards of those in need.
Muhammad Ali had his first amatuer boxing match in 1954. He excelled in the amatuer circuit, which allowed him to qualify for the United States Olympic team during the 1960 Rome games. In this competition, Ali won the gold medal in the light heavyweight division.
After the Olympics, Ali became a professional and continued to dominate his opponents. Ali was heroed for his skill, but he also garnered doubters because of his outlandish style. In 1964, Ali defeated the current heavyweight champion Sonny Liston. Ali was considered the underdog, but he still continuously bragged that he would win before the fight took place.
Muhammad Ali's fights against George Foreman in 1974 and Joe Frazier in 1975 are consider some of the most iconic bouts in boxing history. Muhammad Ali is recognized by many as the greatest boxer of all time. His unorthodox style in the ring and extreme confidence made him a phenom around the world.
As an amatuer boxer in 1959, Muhammad Ali won the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions. He always has crowned the champion of the Amatuer Athletic Union light heavyweight division during the same year.
A year later, Muhammad Ali represented America at the 1960 Olympic Games where he took home the gold for the light heavyweight division. His success at the Olympic Games made Ali a popular figure in American culture.
Muhammad Ali earned his first heavyweight title in 1964 when he defeated Sonny Liston. Following his ban from boxing, Ali reclaimed the heavyweight title by defeating George Foreman in the 1974 classic fight known as the"Rumble in the Jungle." Ali earned his third and final heavyweight title in 1978 after defeating Leon Spinks in a rematch.
In 2005, Ali was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his political prominence and philanthropy work post-boxing.
Outside of boxing, Muhammad Ali was a prominent political and cultural figure throughout the glode. Following his title victory over Sonny Liston in 1964, Cassius Clay joined the Nation of Islam and his name changed to Muhammad Ali.
During the Vietnam War, Muhammad Ali refused to enlist in the US Army due to religous reasons. Ali was then arrested and banned from boxing for three years. He was sentenced spend to five years in prison, but the sentence was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971. His stance against the war became a symbol of peace that motivated the civil rights movement in the late 1960s.
Post-boxing, Muhammad Ali donated to a variety of charities, and even travled the world to help support people in need. Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1984, but still managed to continue his philanthropy. Ali was selected to light the Olympic cauldron at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, where he was greeted with high praise on the global scale.
The "Thrilla in Manila was the third fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975. Their first match four years earlier, which was titled the "Fight of the Century," Frazier defeated Ali after 15 rounds. The second fight in 1974 Muhammad Ali came out victorious, which made the third bout between the two prize fighters even more popular. After 14 rounds, Ali famously won the third battle over Frazier in what is considered one of the all time greatest boxing matches.
Muhammad Ali's devotion to his religion and choice to refrain from fighting in Vietnam made him a beloved leader in the black community. Ali believed against the war so much he even risked his entire boxing career. Ali preached for peace and proclaimed that killing was the wrong way to solve problems. Ali's stance helped ignite peaceful civil rights protests throughout the country. He was seen as a model for change and prosperity.
Ali used the "rope-a-dope" technique during his famous fight against George Foreman. "Rope-a-dope" is when a boxer will hang along the ropes and purposefully take shots from their opponent in hopes to tire them out. Boxers are trained to stay off the ropes, but Ali knew the only way he could defeat the stronger Foreman was if he tired him out. Ali's technique proved successful as he went on to defeat Foreman by an 8th round knockout.
After his boxing career, Muhammad Ali became involved with philanthropy. Ali donated to Parkinson's disease research and also traveled around the globe to influence those in need. Ali supported the Make-A-Wish foundation as well as the Special Olympics. Ali was very much involved with the Olympic Games after his career. Before passing away, Ali help create the Muhammad Ali Center which is a musuem about his life and legacy located in his hometown of Lousiville, Kentucky.