Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., January 17, 1942) is an American former professional boxer, philanthropist and social activist. Considered a cultural icon, Ali has both been idolized and vilified.
Originally known as Cassius Clay, at the age of 22 he won the world heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston. Ali changed his name after joining the Nation of Islam in 1964, subsequently converting to Sunni Islam in 1975. In 1967, three years after Ali had won the heavyweight championship, he was publicly vilified for his refusal to be conscripted into the U.S. military, based on his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. Ali was eventually arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges; he was stripped of his boxing title, and his boxing license was suspended. He was not imprisoned, but did not fight again for nearly four years while his appeal worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was eventually successful.
Ali would go on to become the first and only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Champion.
Nicknamed "The Greatest", Ali was involved in several historic boxing matches. Notable among these were three with rival Joe Frazier, which are considered among the greatest in boxing history, and one with George Foreman, where he finally regained his stripped titles seven years later. Ali was well known for his unorthodox fighting style, epitomized by his catchphrase "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee", and employing techniques such as the Ali Shuffle and the rope-a-dope. Ali brought beauty and grace to the most uncompromising of sports and through the wonderful excesses of skill and character, he became the most famous athlete in the world. He was also known for his pre-match hype, where he would " trash talk" opponents, often with rhymes.
In 1999, Ali was crowned "Sportsman of the Century" by Sports Illustrated and "Sports Personality of the Century" by the BBC.
Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., was born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. The older of two boys, he was named after his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr., who was named after the 19th century abolitionist and politician of the same name. His father painted billboards and signs, and his mother, Odessa O'Grady Clay, was a household domestic. Although Cassius Sr. was a Methodist, he allowed Odessa to bring up both Cassius and his younger brother Rudolph "Rudy" Clay (later renamed Rahman Ali) as Baptists. He is a descendant of pre-Civil War era American slaves in the American South, and is predominantly of African-American descent, with Irish and English ancestry.
Clay was first directed toward boxing by Louisville police officer and boxing coach Joe E. Martin, who encountered the 12-year-old fuming over a thief taking his bicycle. He told the officer he was going to "whup" the thief. The officer told him he better learn how to box first. For the last four years of Clay's amateur career he was trained by legendary boxing cutman Chuck Bodak.
Clay won six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union National Title, and the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Clay's amateur record was 100 wins with five losses. Shortly after his return home from Rome following the Olympics, Ali would claim in his 1975 autobiography that he threw his medal into the Ohio River after he and a friend of his were being refused service at a "whites-only" restaurant, and fighting with a white gang. However, two years later, in the 1977 biopic, The Greatest, a film scene depicting the medal-throwing incident only has Ali being forced out of the diner due to his race quickly cutting to the scene where Clay threw the medal into the river in disgust. Ali brought up the latter story of events in later years in interviews. Both stories have been heavily debated and several of Ali's friends from photographer Howard Bingham and Bundini Brown disputed this story calling it false, with Brown later telling Sports Illustrated writer Mark Kram, " Honkies sure bought into that one!"
It was stated that Ali kept his medal until "the gold rubbed off". This incident is not mentioned in Thomas Hauser's own official biography of Ali, who confirmed that Ali was refused service at the diner but said he lost his medal a year after he won it. Ali later received a replacement medal at a basketball intermission during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where he lit the torch to start the games.
Clay made his professional debut on October 29, 1960, winning a six-round decision over Tunney Hunsaker. From then until 1963, Clay amassed a record of 19-0 with 15 wins by knockout. He defeated boxers including Tony Esperti, Jim Robinson, Donnie Fleeman, Alonzo Johnson, George Logan, Willi Besmanoff, Lamar Clark, Doug Jones and Henry Cooper.
Clay was knocked down twice during this early run by Sonny Banks and Henry Cooper. The Cooper fight was stopped due to deep cuts in Cooper's eyes in the fifth round. Clay also beat his former trainer and veteran boxer Archie Moore in a 1962 match. After Clay left Moore's camp in 1960 partially due to Clay refusing to do chores such as dishwashing and sweeping, he hired Angelo Dundee, whom he had met in February 1957 during Ali's amateur career, to be his trainer. Around this time, Clay sought longtime idol Sugar Ray Robinson to be his manager, but was rebuffed. A disputed ten-round decision over Doug Jones was later named "Fight of the Year" in 1963.
Ali had amassed a record of 19–0, with 15 knockouts and became the top contender for Sonny Liston's title. The fight was set for February 25, 1964 in Miami. Despite his record, Ali was a 7-1 underdog. During the weigh-in on the day before the bout, the ever-boastful Clay, who frequently taunted Liston during the buildup by dubbing him "the big ugly bear" (among other things), declared that he would "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee," and, summarizing his strategy for avoiding Liston's assaults, said, "Your hands can't hit what your eyes can't see." At the pre-fight weigh-in, Clay's pulse rate was around 120, more than double his norm of 54. Liston, among others, thought this stemmed from nervousness.
Clay and Liston fought for six rounds in their first title fight, with Clay dominating most of the rounds, except in round four when it was alleged Clay had trouble seeing due to a substance in his eyes. Though not confirmed that this happened to Clay, Bert Sugar claimed that at least two of Liston's opponents complained about their eyes 'burning'", suggesting a possibility that Liston's corner was deliberately attempting to cheat.
Despite Liston's attempts to knock Clay out in the fifth, Clay was able to escape Liston's offense until sweat and tears rinsed the substance from his eyes, leading to Clay to respond back with a flurry of combinations near the end of the fifth round. During the sixth round, Clay dominated Liston throughout. When Liston refused to answer the bell for the seventh round, Clay was declared the winner. Liston would later claim he had injured his shoulder. Following the win, a triumphant Clay rushed to the press stands, pointing to them and screaming "I fooled you!" During the now-infamous in-ring interview following the match, Clay shouted "I shook up the world!" and "I must be 'The Greatest'!" When Clay won, he became the youngest boxer to take the title from a reigning heavyweight champion at just 22; though Floyd Patterson was the youngest to win the heavyweight championship at 21, it was during an elimination bout following Rocky Marciano's retirement. Mike Tyson later broke the records for both Clay and Patterson in 1986 at 20 during his fight with Trevor Berbick.
Clay, now having changed his name to Muhammad Ali following his Islam conversion, and Liston met up for their rematch in May the following year. Midway through the first round, Liston was knocked down by one of Ali's punches, later dubbed by the press as the "phantom punch". Referee Jersey Joe Walcott stopped the match shortly afterwards and Ali was declared the winner around 1:52 of the first round. Rumors speculated that Liston dropped to the ground purposely due to threats from NOI extremists, or "threw" the fight to pay off debts, waiting to be counted out.
Ali's second title defense was against Floyd Patterson. The bout was alleged to have been brutal due to Patterson's refusal to call Ali by his Muslim name. Throughout the fight, Ali taunted Patterson by shouting "what's my name" to him. It's alleged that Patterson may have strained his sacroiliac, which made it difficult for him to escape Ali's punches. Ali and then- WBA heavyweight champion boxer Ernie Terrell had agreed to meet for a bout in Chicago on March 29, 1966 but the Illinois Athletic Commission refused to host the fight due to Ali's Vietnam War statements. Following these bouts, Ali traveled overseas and won championship bouts against George Chuvalo, Henry Cooper, Brian London and Karl Mildenberger. Ali's next fight after his return to the United States was against Cleveland Williams in the Houston Astrodome. According to Sports Illustrated, the bout drew a then-indoor world record of 35,460. Ali ended up beating Williams in three rounds. Williams was recovering from being shot at point-blank range by a Texas policeman a year and a half before, resulting in him entering the fight missing one kidney and 10 feet (3.0 m) of his small intestine, and with a shriveled left leg from nerve damage from the bullet that was still lodged in his body.
Ali and Terrell finally met in Houston to face off on February 6, 1967. Like Patterson before, Terrell would defy Ali's order to call him by his Muslim name. As a result, Ali set off on humiliating Terrell, shouting, "What's my name, Uncle Tom... what's my name?" Terrell later alleged that Ali had rubbed his thumbs on Terrell's eyes, causing problems. Critics described the fight as "one of the ugliest boxing fights". Tex Maule later wrote: "It was a wonderful demonstration of boxing skill and a barbarous display of cruelty." Despite this, Ali denied he intended to harm Terrell on purpose nor did he feel he was cruel to Terrell during the bout. His final title defense would be against Zora Folley a month later. Following this, Ali's title would be stripped after his refusal to be drafted to Army service, resulting in his boxing license being suspended and later being sentenced to five years for evasion.
Comeback from exile
With his case still in appeal, Ali returned to the ring after winning a boxing license in Atlanta on August 12, 1970, thanks to State Senator Leroy R. Johnson, where he was granted a license to box by the City of Atlanta Athletic Commission. Ali's first return bout was against Jerry Quarry on October 26, resulting in a win after three rounds. Following this, the New York State Boxing Commission reinstated Ali's license to fight there and Ali fought against Oscar Bonavena at Madison Square Garden in December 1970, knocking him out technically during the 15th round, leaving him as a top contender against heavyweight champion Joe Frazier.
Ali and Frazier's first fight, held at the Garden on March 8, 1971, was nicknamed the " Fight of the Century", due to the hyped antics in their pre-fight. After being knocked down during the 15th round, Ali eventually suffered his first professional boxing loss afterwards from the fight. The boxer then returned with bouts against Quarry, a second bout with Floyd Patterson and Bob Foster in 1972, winning a total of six fights that year. In 1973, Ali suffered another loss at the hands of Ken Norton, who broke Ali's jaw during the fight, though it's contested which round he broke it, with Angelo Dundee later claiming Ali broke it in the second round, while others, including Norton, stated Ali broke it much later in the fight. After initially seeking retirement, Ali won against Norton in their second bout, leading to his second fight with Frazier, with Ali this time winning on points in their January 12, 1974 rematch.
Heavyweight Champion (second tenure)
Ali faced off against heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman in Kinshasa on October 30, 1974 in a bout nicknamed " The Rumble in the Jungle". Almost no one, not even Ali's long-time supporter Howard Cosell, gave the former champion a chance of winning. Analysts pointed out that Joe Frazier and Ken Norton had given Ali four tough battles in the ring and won two of them, while Foreman had knocked out both of them in the second round.
During the fight, beginning in the second round, Ali retreated to the ropes, inviting Foreman to hit him while counter-punching and verbally taunting the younger man. Ali leaned on the ropes and covered up as Foreman threw punches that were deflected and didn't land squarely. Midway through, when Foreman began tiring, Ali countered with punches and some flurries. This practice would later become known as the " Rope-A-Dope". In the eighth, Ali dropped Foreman with a combination at centre ring and Foreman failed to make the count. Against the odds, Ali had regained the title.
Ali's next opponents included Chuck Wepner, Ron Lyle, and Joe Bugner. Wepner stunned Ali with a knockdown in the ninth round; Ali would later say he tripped on Wepner's foot. Ali agreed to a third match with Joe Frazier in Manila. The bout, titled " The Thrilla in Manila", was held on October 1, 1975. The fight lasted fourteen grueling rounds in temperatures approaching 100 °F (38 °C). The fight was stopped when Frazier was unable to answer the bell for the 15th and final round (his eyes were swollen shut). Frazier's trainer, Eddie Futch, refused to allow Frazier to continue. An ailing Ali said afterwards that the last Frazier fight "was the closest thing to dying that I know" and cited Frazier as "the greatest fighter of all times next to me."
Following the bout, Ali fought against Jean-Pierre Coopman, Jimmy Young and Richard Dunn, with the latter bout being the final bout in which Ali scored by knockout. Later in 1976, Ali participated in an exhibition bout in Tokyo against Japanese professional wrestler and martial artist Antonio Inoki. Though the fight was noted as a publicity stunt, the fight affected Ali's mobility as he suffered leg bruises throughout the fight due to Inoki's kicks. Ali suffered two blood clots and an infection in the fight, which was ultimately declared a draw. Ali fought against Ken Norton again in their third fight at Yankee Stadium in September 1976, where Ali won by a heavily contested decision, which led to the audience booing in the ring. Ali reacted to the fallout of this by announcing a brief retirement to practice his faith in Islam, having converted to Sunni Islam after falling out with the Nation of Islam the previous year.
After winning against Alfredo Evangelista in May 1977, Ali struggled in his next fight to boxer Earnie Shavers that September, who pummeled Ali a few times with punches to the head. Ali later won the fight by another unanimous decision, but the Shavers fight caused Ali's longtime doctor Freddie Pacheco to quit after he was rebuffed for telling Ali he should retire. In February 1978, Ali faced Leon Spinks, who had a 6–0–1 record going into their first fight at the Superdome in New Orleans, and lost the title by unanimous decision. Ali later won against Spinks by unanimous decision in their rematch eight months later, making him the first heavyweight champion to win the belt three times. Following this win, on July 27, 1979, Ali announced his retirement from boxing. His retirement was short-lived, however, after Ali announced his comeback to face Larry Holmes for the WBA belt in an attempt to win the heavyweight championship an unprecedented fourth time. It was around this time that Ali started struggling with vocal stutters and trembling hands. Ali's rapid decline caused concern and Ali checked himself into the Mayo Clinic for checkup, later declaring him fit to fight. Ali fought against Holmes on October 2, 1980 in Las Vegas with Holmes easily dominating the weakened Ali, who had taken thyroid medication to lose weight though the medication left him visibly tired and short of breath. Ali's trainer Angelo Dundee stopped the fight in the eleventh round, citing the only Ali fight in which the boxer lost by knockout. The Holmes fight is said to have contributed to Ali's Parkinson's syndrome. Despite pleas for retirement, Ali fought one last time on December 21, 1981 in Nassau against Trevor Berbick losing a ten-round decision. Following the bout, Ali announced his retirement.
Films and music
The film Freedom Road was made in 1978, featuring Muhammad Ali in a rare acting role, playing Gideon Jackson, an ex-slave in 1870's Virginia who gets elected to the U.S. Senate in Washington D.C. and battles other former slaves and white sharecroppers to keep the land they tended all their lives. It also stars Kris Kristofferson, Ron O'Neal, Edward Herrmann, John McLiam, Ossie Davis, Barbarao, and Sonny Jim Gaines.
It was on the set of Freedom Road that Muhammad Ali first met Canadian singer/songwriter Michel, and subsequently helped create Michel's album entitled The First Flight of the Gizzelda Dragon. Ali also featured with Michel in the hour-long special With Love From Muhammad Ali, as well as appearing with Michel on The Dick Cavett Show taped on 1 February 1979.
Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's syndrome in 1984, a disease that is common to head trauma from activities such as boxing. Ali still remained active during this time, however, later participating as a guest referee in the inaugural WrestleMania event.
Ali's other high profile events during this time included being selected by the California Bicentennial Foundation for the U.S. Constitution to personify the vitality of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights around 1987. Ali rode on a float at the following year's Tournament of Roses Parade, launching the U.S. Constitution's 200th birthday commemoration. He published an oral history, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser, in 1991. That same year Ali traveled to Iraq during the Gulf War and met with Saddam Hussein in an attempt to negotiate the release of American hostages. In 1996, he had the honour of lighting the flame at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Ali's bout with Parkinson's led to a gradual decline in Ali's health though he was still active into the early years of the millennium, even promoting his own biopic, Ali, in 2001. On November 17, 2002, Muhammad Ali went to Afghanistan as "U.N. Messenger of Peace". He was in Kabul for a three-day goodwill mission as a special guest of the UN.
In 2009, Ali visited Ennis, the ancestral site of his great-grandfather before he emigrated to the U.S. in the 1860s, before eventually settling in Kentucky. Ali later received the honour of freedom at a civic reception in Ennis. He also became a freeman at Ennis, Co Clare, Ireland. On July 27, 2012, Ali was a titular bearer of the Olympic Flag during the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. He was helped to his feet by his wife Lonnie to stand before the flag due to his Parkinson's rendering him unable to carry it into the stadium.
On February 3, 2013, in a Washington Times article, the boxer's brother, Rahman Ali, said Muhammad can no longer speak and could be dead within days. Muhammad Ali's daughter responded to rumors of her father being near death. May May Ali said she talked to him on the phone the morning of February 3 and he was fine.
Marriages and children
Ali has been married four times and has seven daughters and two sons. Ali met his first wife, cocktail waitress Sonji Roi, approximately one month before they married on August 14, 1964. Roi's objections to certain Muslim customs in regard to dress for women contributed to the breakup of their marriage. They divorced on January 10, 1966.
On August 17, 1967, Ali married Belinda Boyd. After the wedding, she, like Ali, converted to Islam and more recently to Sufism, changed her name to Khalilah Ali, though she was still called Belinda by old friends and family. They had four children: Maryum (b. 1968), twins Jamillah and Rasheda (b. 1970), and Muhammad Ali, Jr. (b. 1972). Maryum has a career as an author and rapper.
In 1975, Ali began an affair with Veronica Porsche, an actress and model. By the summer of 1977, Ali's second marriage was over and he had married Veronica. At the time of their marriage, they had a baby girl, Hana, and Veronica was pregnant with their second child. Their second daughter, Laila, was born in December 1977. By 1986, Ali and Veronica were divorced. Laila later became a boxer in 1999, despite her father's earlier comments against female boxing in 1978: "Women are not made to be hit in the breast, and face like that... the body's not made to be punched right here [patting his chest]. Get hit in the breast... hard... and all that."
On November 19, 1986, Ali married Yolanda ("Lonnie") Williams. They had been friends since 1964 in Louisville. They have one son, Asaad Amin, whom they adopted when Amin was five.
Ali was a resident of Cherry Hill, New Jersey in the early 1970s. Ali has two other daughters, Miya and Khaliah, from extramarital relationships.
Ali currently lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with Lonnie. They own a house in Berrien Springs, Michigan, which is for sale. On January 9, 2007, they purchased a house in eastern Jefferson County, Kentucky for $1,875,000. Lonnie converted to Islam from Catholicism in her late 20s.
The Nation of Islam and religious beliefs
Initially, Clay was refused entry to the Nation of Islam (often called the Black Muslims at the time) due to his boxing career. However, after winning the championship from Liston in 1964, the Nation of Islam changed their minds and agreed to recruit him as a member. On Friday, March 6, 1964, Malcolm X took Clay on a guided tour of the UN building (for a second time). The minister then announced that Clay would be granted his "X", renaming him Cassius X. That same night, Elijah Muhammad recorded a statement over the phone to be played over the radio that Clay would be renamed Muhammad (one who is worthy of praise) Ali (fourth rightly guided caliph). Only a few journalists (most notably Howard Cosell) accepted it at that time. Venerable boxing announcer Don Dunphy addressed the champion by his adopted name, as did British reporters. The adoption of this name symbolized his new identity as a member of the Nation of Islam. The name change to "Muhammad Ali" also led to the end of Ali's friendship with Malcolm X, as he would leave the NOI a couple of weeks after Ali joined.
Aligning himself with the Nation of Islam made him a lightning rod for controversy, turning the outspoken but popular champion into one of that era's most recognizable and controversial figures. Appearing at rallies with Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad and declaring his allegiance to him at a time when mainstream America viewed them with suspicion—if not outright hostility—made Ali a target of outrage, as well as suspicion. Ali seemed at times to provoke such reactions, with viewpoints that wavered from support for civil rights to outright support of separatism. For example, Ali once stated, in relation to integration: "We who follow the teachings of Elijah Muhammad don't want to be forced to integrate. Integration is wrong. We don't want to live with the white man; that's all." And in relation to inter-racial marriage: "No intelligent black man or black woman in his or her right black mind wants white boys and white girls coming to their homes to marry their black sons and daughters." Indeed, Ali's religious beliefs at the time included the notion that the white man was "the devil" and that white people were not "righteous." Ali claimed that white people hated black people.
Initially, Ali told reporters that his real goal in life was to be a minister for the NOI following his exile. But after Ali mentioned making a comeback to boxing during a 1969 interview, Elijah Muhammad rescinded the boxer's position, stating on the April 4, 1969 issue of Muhammad Speaks: "Mr. Muhammad Ali plainly acted the fool to the whole world." Muhammad claimed Ali deliberately "stepped down off the spiritual platform of Islam to go and see if he can make money in the sports world". Muhammad even went so far to denounce Ali's name telling Muhammad Speaks that Ali's name had reverted back to his birth name, Cassius Clay. Ali was then ousted from the Muslim circle, under Elijah Muhammad, for a year. Ali converted from the Nation of Islam sect to mainstream Sunni Islam in 1975. In a 2004 autobiography, written with daughter Hana Yasmeen Ali, Muhammad Ali attributes his conversion to the shift toward Sunni Islam made by Warith Deen Muhammad after he gained control of the Nation of Islam upon the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975. Later in 2005 he embraced spiritual practices of Sufism.
In 1964, Ali failed the U.S. Armed Forces qualifying test because his writing and spelling skills were sub-par. However, in early 1966, the tests were revised and Ali was reclassified as 1A. This classification meant he was now eligible for the draft and induction into the U.S. Army during a time when the United States was involved in the Vietnam War. When notified of this status, he declared that he would refuse to serve in the United States Army and publicly considered himself a conscientious objector. Ali stated: "War is against the teachings of the Holy Qur'an. I'm not trying to dodge the draft. We are not supposed to take part in no wars unless declared by Allah or The Messenger. We don't take part in Christian wars or wars of any unbelievers." He famously said in 1966: "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Congs..."
Widespread protests against the Vietnam War had not yet begun, but with that one phrase, Ali articulated the reason to oppose the war for a generation of young Americans, and his words served as a touchstone for the racial and antiwar upheavals that would rock the 1960s. Ali's example inspired Martin Luther King, Jr. – who had been reluctant to alienate the Johnson Administration and its support of the civil rights agenda – to voice his own opposition to the war for the first time.
Rare for a heavyweight boxing champion in those days, Ali spoke at Howard University, where he gave his popular "Black Is Best" speech to 4,000 cheering students and community intellectuals after he was invited to speak by sociology professor Nathan Hare on behalf of the Black Power Committee, a student protest group.
Appearing shortly thereafter for his scheduled induction into the U.S. Armed Forces on April 28, 1967 in Houston, he refused three times to step forward at the call of his name. An officer warned him he was committing a felony punishable by five years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Once more, Ali refused to budge when his name was called. As a result, he was arrested and on the same day the New York State Athletic Commission suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his title. Other boxing commissions followed suit. Ali would not be able to obtain a license to box in any state for over three years.
At the trial on June 20, 1967, after only 21 minutes of deliberation, the jury found Ali guilty. After a Court of Appeals upheld the conviction, the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. During this time, the public began turning against the war and support for Ali began to grow. Ali supported himself by speaking at colleges and universities across the country, where opposition to the war was especially strong. On June 28, 1971, the Supreme Court reversed his conviction for refusing induction by unanimous decision in Clay v. United States. The decision was not based on, nor did it address, the merits of Clay's/Ali's claims per se; rather, the government's failure to specify which claims were rejected and which were sustained, constituted the grounds upon which the Court reversed the conviction.
Quotes about Vietnam war
|“||Man, I ain't got no quarrel with them Vietcong.||”|
|“||No, I am not going 10,000 miles to help murder, kill, and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slavemasters over dark people the world over. This is the day and age when such evil injustice must come to an end.||”|
|“||Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?||”|
Standing at 6'3" (1.91 m), Ali had a highly unorthodox style for a heavyweight boxer. Rather than the normal style of carrying the hands high to defend the face, he instead relied on foot speed and quickness to avoid punches, and carried his hands low. During the early part of Ali's career, he built a reputation for predicting rounds in which he would "finish" several opponents, and by boasting before his triumphs.
Ali admitted he adopted the latter practice from "Gorgeous" George Wagner, a popular professional wrestling champion in the Los Angeles area who drew thousands of fans. Often referred to as "the man you loved to hate," George could incite the crowd with a few heated remarks, and Ali followed suit.
Later, Ali responded to punches by lying on the ropes to withstand the blows, only to return the blows back, sometimes holding his opponents by the neck and taunting them for being "weak" and "slow" and "can't throw no punch". Starting in the mid-1960s, Ali would openly taunt his opponents in the ring sometimes taunting them as instructions were read and later on, hitting them and taunting them throughout. Ali's later style of laying on the ropes to avoid bigger punches while hitting back would later be cited as "the rope-a-dope", a style that had started during Ali's first fight with Frazier and became something of a trademark move following "The Rumble in the Jungle".
Muhammad Ali defeated every top heavyweight in his era, which has been called the golden age of heavyweight boxing. Ali was named "Fighter of the Year" by Ring Magazine more times than any other fighter, and was involved in more Ring Magazine "Fight of the Year" bouts than any other fighter. He is an inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and holds wins over seven other Hall of Fame inductees. He is one of only three boxers to be named " Sportsman of the Year" by Sports Illustrated.
In 1978, three years before Ali's permanent retirement, the Board of Aldermen in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, voted 6–5 to rename Walnut Street to Muhammad Ali Boulevard. This was controversial at the time, as within a week 12 of the 70 street signs were stolen. Earlier that year, a committee of the Jefferson County Public Schools considered renaming Central High School in his honour, but the motion failed to pass. At any rate, in time, Muhammad Ali Boulevard—and Ali himself—came to be well accepted in his hometown. In 1993, the Associated Press reported that Ali was tied with Babe Ruth as the most recognized athlete, out of over 800 dead or alive athletes, in America. The study found that over 97% of Americans over 12 years of age identified both Ali and Ruth.
He was the recipient of the 1997 Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Two years later, in 1999, the BBC produced a special version of its annual BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award ceremony, and Ali was voted their Sports Personality of the Century, receiving more votes than the other four contenders combined. On September 13, 1999, Ali was named "Kentucky Athlete of the Century" by the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame in ceremonies at the Galt House East. On January 8, 2005, Muhammad Ali was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President George W. Bush. Later that November, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony. and the " Otto Hahn Peace Medal in Gold" of the UN Association of Germany (DGVN) in Berlin for his work with the US civil rights movement and the United Nations (December 17, 2005).
On November 19, 2005 (Ali's 19th wedding anniversary), the $60 million non-profit Muhammad Ali Centre opened in downtown Louisville. In addition to displaying his boxing memorabilia, the centre focuses on core themes of peace, social responsibility, respect, and personal growth. A youth club in Ali's hometown and a species of rose (Rosa ali) have been named after him. On June 5, 2007, he received an honorary doctorate of humanities at Princeton University's 260th graduation ceremony.
Ranking in heavyweight history
Ali is generally considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time by boxing commentators and historians. Ring Magazine, a prominent boxing magazine, named him number 1 in a 1998 ranking of greatest heavyweights from all eras.
Ali was named the second greatest fighter in boxing history by ESPN.com behind only welterweight and middleweight great Sugar Ray Robinson. In December 2007, ESPN listed Ali second in its choice of the greatest heavyweights of all time, behind Joe Louis.
The Associated Press voted Ali the No. 1 heavyweight of the 20th century in 1999.
Professional boxing record
|56 Wins (37 knockouts, 19 decisions), 5 Losses (4 decisions, 1 TKO), 0 Draws|
|Loss||Trevor Berbick||Decision (unanimous)||10 (10)||December 11, 1981||39 years, 328 days||Nassau, Bahamas||"Drama in the Bahamas"|
|Loss||Larry Holmes||TKO (Corner Stoppage)||10 (15)||October 2, 1980||38 years, 259 days||Las Vegas, NV||Lost The Ring World Heavyweight title. For WBC World Heavyweight title.|
|Win||Leon Spinks||Decision (unanimous)||15 (15)||September 15, 1978||36 years, 241 days||New Orleans, LA||Won The Ring & WBA World Heavyweight titles;
Vacated WBA title on 1979-09-06.
|Loss||Leon Spinks||Decision (split)||15 (15)||February 15, 1978||36 years, 29 days||Las Vegas, NV||Lost The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||Earnie Shavers||Decision (unanimous)||15 (15)||September 29, 1977||35 years, 255 days||New York City||Retained The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||Alfredo Evangelista||Decision (unanimous)||15 (15)||May 16, 1977||35 years, 119 days||Landover, MD||Retained The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||Ken Norton||Decision (unanimous)||15 (15)||September 28, 1976||34 years, 255 days||The Bronx, New York||Retained The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||Richard Dunn||TKO||5 (15)||May 24, 1976||34 years, 128 days||Munich, West Germany||Retained The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||Jimmy Young||Decision (unanimous)||15 (15)||April 30, 1976||34 years, 104 days||Landover, MD||Retained The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||Jean-Pierre Coopman||KO||5 (15)||February 20, 1976||34 years, 34 days||San Juan, Puerto Rico||Retained The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||Joe Frazier||TKO||14 (15), 0:59||October 1, 1975||33 years, 257 days||Quezon City, Philippines||" The Thrilla in Manila";
Retained The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles.
|Win||Joe Bugner||Decision (unanimous)||15 (15)||June 30, 1975||33 years, 164 days||Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia||Retained The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||Ron Lyle||TKO||11 (15)||May 16, 1975||33 years, 119 days||Las Vegas, NV||Retained The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||Chuck Wepner||TKO||15 (15), 2:41||March 24, 1975||33 years, 66 days||Richfield, OH||Retained The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||George Foreman||KO||8 (15), 2:58||October 30, 1974||32 years, 286 days||Kinshasa, Zaire||" The Rumble in the Jungle";
Won The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles.
|Win||Joe Frazier||Decision (unanimous)||12 (12)||January 28, 1974||32 years, 11 days||New York City, NY||Retained NABF Heavyweight title;
Vacated title later in 1974.
|Win||Rudi Lubbers||Decision (unanimous)||12 (12)||October 20, 1973||31 years, 276 days||Jakarta, Indonesia|
|Win||Ken Norton||Decision (split)||12 (12)||September 10, 1973||31 years, 236 days||Inglewood, CA||Won NABF Heavyweight title.|
|Loss||Ken Norton||Decision (split)||12 (12)||March 31, 1973||31 years, 73 days||San Diego, CA||Lost NABF Heavyweight title.|
|Win||Joe Bugner||Decision (unanimous)||12 (12)||February 14, 1973||31 years, 28 days||Las Vegas, NV|
|Win||Bob Foster||KO||7 (12)||November 21, 1972||30 years, 309 days||Stateline, NV||Retained NABF Heavyweight title.|
|Win||Floyd Patterson||TKO||7 (12)||September 20, 1972||30 years, 247 days||New York City, NY||Retained NABF Heavyweight title.|
|Win||Alvin Lewis||TKO||11 (12), 1:15||July 19, 1972||30 years, 184 days||Dublin, Ireland|
|Win||Jerry Quarry||TKO||7 (12), 0:19||June 27, 1972||30 years, 162 days||Las Vegas, NV||Retained NABF Heavyweight title.|
|Win||George Chuvalo||Decision (unanimous)||12 (12)||May 1, 1972||30 years, 105 days||Vancouver, Canada||Retained NABF Heavyweight title.|
|Win||Mac Foster||Decision (unanimous)||15 (15)||April 1, 1972||30 years, 75 days||Tokyo, Japan|
|Win||Jürgen Blin||KO||7 (12), 2:12||December 26, 1971||29 years, 343 days||Zurich, Switzerland|
|Win||Buster Mathis||Decision (unanimous)||12 (12)||November 17, 1971||29 years, 304 days||Houston, TX||Retained NABF Heavyweight title.|
|Win||Jimmy Ellis||TKO||12 (12), 2:10||July 26, 1971||29 years, 190 days||Houston, TX||Won vacant NABF Heavyweight title.|
|Loss||Joe Frazier||Decision (unanimous)||15 (15)||March 8, 1971||29 years, 50 days||New York City, NY||" The Fight of the Century";
Lost The Ring World Heavyweight title. For WBA & WBC World Heavyweight titles.
|Win||Oscar Bonavena||TKO||15 (15), 2:03||December 7, 1970||28 years, 324 days||New York City, NY||Retained The Ring World Heavyweight title.|
|Win||Jerry Quarry||TKO||3 (15)||October 26, 1970||28 years, 282 days||Atlanta, GA||Retained The Ring World Heavyweight title.|
|Win||Zora Folley||KO||7 (15), 1:48||March 22, 1967||25 years, 64 days||New York City, NY||Retained The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles;
Stripped of titles on 04-28-1967.
|Win||Ernie Terrell||Decision (unanimous)||15 (15)||February 6, 1967||25 years, 20 days||Houston, TX||Retained The Ring WBC & won WBA World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||Cleveland Williams||TKO||3 (15)||November 14, 1966||24 years, 301 days||Houston, TX||Retained The Ring & WBC World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||Karl Mildenberger||TKO||12 (15)||September 10, 1966||24 years, 236 days||Frankfurt, West Germany||Retained The Ring & WBC World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||Brian London||KO||3 (15)||August 6, 1966||24 years, 201 days||London, England||Retained The Ring & WBC World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||Henry Cooper||TKO||6 (15), 1:38||May 21, 1966||24 years, 124 days||London, England||Retained The Ring & WBC World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||George Chuvalo||Decision (unanimous)||15 (15)||March 29, 1966||24 years, 71 days||Toronto, Canada||Retained The Ring & WBC World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||Floyd Patterson||TKO||12 (15), 2:18||November 22, 1965||23 years, 309 days||Las Vegas, NV||Retained The Ring & WBC World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||Sonny Liston||KO||1 (15), 2:12||May 25, 1965||23 years, 128 days||Lewiston, ME||Retained The Ring & WBC World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||Sonny Liston||TKO||7 (15)||February 25, 1964||22 years, 39 days||Miami Beach, FL||Won The Ring, WBA & WBC World Heavyweight titles;
Stripped of WBA title on 06-19-1964.
|Win||Henry Cooper||TKO||5 (10), 2:15||June 18, 1963||21 years, 152 days||London, England|
|Win||Doug Jones||Decision (unanimous)||10 (10)||March 13, 1963||21 years, 55 days||New York City, NY|
|Win||Charley Powell||KO||3, 2:04||January 24, 1963||21 years, 7 days||Pittsburgh, PA|
|Win||Archie Moore||TKO||4 (10), 1:35||November 15, 1962||20 years, 302 days||Los Angeles, CA|
|Win||Alejandro Lavorante||KO||5 (10), 1:48||July 20, 1962||20 years, 184 days||Los Angeles, CA|
|Win||Billy Daniels||TKO||7 (10), 2:21||May 19, 1962||20 years, 122 days||New York City, NY|
|Win||George Logan||TKO||4 (10), 1:34||April 23, 1962||20 years, 96 days||New York City, NY|
|Win||Don Warner||TKO||4, 0:34||March 28, 1962||20 years, 70 days||Miami Beach, FL|
|Win||Sonny Banks||TKO||4 (10), 0:26||February 10, 1962||20 years, 24 days||New York City, NY|
|Win||Willi Besmanoff||TKO||7 (10), 1:55||November 29, 1961||19 years, 316 days||Louisville, KY|
|Win||Alex Miteff||TKO||6 (10), 1:45||October 7, 1961||19 years, 263 days||Louisville, KY|
|Win||Alonzo Johnson||Decision (unanimous)||10 (10)||July 22, 1961||19 years, 186 days||Louisville, KY|
|Win||Duke Sabedong||Decision (unanimous)||10 (10)||June 26, 1961||19 years, 160 days||Las Vegas, NV|
|Win||LaMar Clark||KO||2 (10), 1:27||April 19, 1961||19 years, 92 days||Louisville, KY|
|Win||Donnie Fleeman||TKO||7 (8)||February 21, 1961||19 years, 35 days||Miami Beach, FL|
|Win||Jim Robinson||KO||1 (8), 1:34||February 7, 1961||19 years, 21 days||Miami Beach, FL|
|Win||Tony Esperti||TKO||3 (8), 1:30||January 17, 1961||19 years, 0 days||Miami Beach, FL|
|Win||Herb Siler||KO||4 (8)||December 27, 1960||18 years, 345 days||Miami Beach, FL|
|Win||Tunney Hunsaker||Decision (unanimous)||6 (6)||October 29, 1960||18 years, 286 days||Louisville, KY|
Awards and nominations
Double Helix Medal
- 2006: CSHL Double Helix Medal Honoree