When you think of the words “The Greatest,” only one name comes to mind, Muhammad Ali. Ali was not only regarded as the greatest boxer of all-time but also one of the most significant figures of the 20th century.
Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky as Cassius Clay, and began training to be an amateur boxer when he was only 12 years old. Legend has it that young Clay took up the sweet science of pugilism because he was being bullied.
At the age of 18, he won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. He would turn professional later that year and convert to Islam in 1961. At the age of 22, in 1964, he won the world heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston in a major upset. He then changed his name from Cassius Clay, which he called his “slave name”, to Muhammad Ali. He would be the most recognizable member of the Nation of Islam alongside of their national minister Malcolm X.
After successfully defending his heavyweight title for two straight years, Ali was drafted by the U.S. Government to enlist in the Vietnam War. Unlike his predecessor Joe Louis, Ali refused to be drafted citing his opposition to the Vietnam War based on religious reasons. He was eventually arrested, found guilty of draft evasion charges, and stripped of his boxing titles. After a four-year fight and losing out on his peak years as a fighter, he successfully appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned his conviction in 1971. Ali’s stance as a conscientious objector made him a hero in the anti-war movement and counterculture generation.
Ali would go on to win the heavyweight title on two more occasions being the first to accomplish the feat. His boxing matches with Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton, and Leon Spinks are still some of the best fights in the history of boxing.
Muhammad Ali was the most famous person in the world during his lifetime. He was honored with every award imaginable. He life was the focus of thousands of books and feature films. He was simply the greatest.
After a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali joined the ancestors on June 3, 2016.