Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., more commonly known as Muhammad Ali, was a professional boxer who achieved many accomplishments, including an olympic gold medal in 1960 in Rome and a world heavyweight championship title. Throughout Ali’s career, he faced much success and controversy that would make him a household name.
On January 17, 1942, Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He was named after his father Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. Clay's mother was Odessa O’Grady Clay. Clay was born dyslexic, so it was hard for him to learn in school and it caused him some trouble throughout his life.
When Clay was 12, a thief stole his bike. Clay’s boxing coach, Joe E. Martin, and a police officer saw Clay upset over the incident and at that moment, Martin encouraged Clay to try boxing.
Clay started his amateur career with his first fight in 1954, and won by a split decision. His amateur record was 100 wins with five losses. During this time of his career, he also won light heavyweight gold medal during the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.
In Clay’s early professional boxing career, he fought against many individuals such as Tony Espereti, Jim Robinson, Donnie Freeman, and countless more. In his pro career, he defeated the World HeavyWeight Champion, Sonny Liston, becoming the new champion. Soon after this fight, Clay changed his name to Cassius X, then changed his name to Muhammad Ali after converting to Islam and uniting with the Nation of Islam. Later, he fought Floyd Patterson and defended his championship.
Despite Ali’s success, he faced license suspension because he refused to be drafted for army services. The boxing committee even took away his belt. He was convicted for draft evasion and sentenced to five years in prison with a $10,000 fine. However, Ali paid a bond and was able to remain free as he waited to appeal the judgment. On June 28, 1971 the Supreme Court unanimously overturned Ali’s conviction.
With the appeal of his case, the boxing committee unsuspended Ali’s boxing license. Soon after, Ali started boxing again and became the number one contender in the heavyweight division. The World HeavyWeight Champion at that time was Joe Fraizer. Ali and Joe Fraizer had their first fight at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971. It was named the “Fight Of The Century,” because the public was excited to see two undefeated boxers fight each other. Although Ali was not knocked out, he lost by unanimous decision. It was his first professional defeat. Between Ali and Joe Frazier’s first and second fight, Ali fought Ken Norton, but he broke Ali’s jaw and knocked him out, which was Ali’s second professional loss ever. Ali fought Norton again and Ali beat him, which gave him a rematch with Joe Fraizer at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 1974. Ali knocked Fraizer out half-hook half-uppercut on both sides, and beat Fraizer.
Ali’s comeback against Fraizer set the stage for a title fight against heavyweight champion George Foreman on October 30, 1974, in Kinshasa, Zaire. The fight was named “Rumble In The Jungle.” Foreman was considered one of the hardest hitters in heavyweight history, and many said that Ali would not win. In the fight, Ali introduced a new technique called the “Rope A Dope.” He stayed on the ropes and Taunted Foreman. Ali let him punch him as hard as he could to tire him, and then knocked Foreman out. Ali regained the title.
The fight of Ali against Foreman recorded over one billion people worldwide; it was the world's most watched television broadcast at the time. Ali fought Fraizer for the third time in Manila on October 1, 1975. It was named the “Thrilla In Manila.'' Ali and Fraizer fought 14 rounds, but Fraizer’s coach asked the referee to stop the match and Ali won by corner retirement (RTD) and kept his title. Ali admitted that Joe Fraizer was “The Greatest Fighter of all Time.”
Ali began struggling with vocal stutters and trembling hands in 1979. In the early 80s, it was revealed that he had Parkinson's Syndrome. In 1984, he made public that he had a diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease. Many blame the disease on boxing-related injuries, though some doctors disagreed with this. He remained an active public figure globally, but in his later years he made fewer public appearances as his condition worsened, and he was cared for by his family. On June 3, 2016, Ali died in Scottsdale, Arizona at 74.
Muhammad Ali was a great professional boxer and he won many championships. He set higher standards, and even though he lost matches, he is one of the greatest boxers of all time.