Muhammad Ali Biography
Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr who changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1963 is one of the most important professional boxers in history because his full-of-success boxing career and for the political ideas he represents. In 1999, Sports Illustrated named him as the Sportsman of the century. He won the World Heavyweight Championship three times, he also won the title awarded by the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) and an Olympic gold medal.
Muhammad Ali was born on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky, United States. His father, Cassius Marcellus Clay painted posters and played the piano and his mother Odessa O’Grady was a housewife. Ali had a sister and four brothers. Although his father was a Methodist he accepted that his wife, Cassius and his younger brother Rudolph were Baptists.
His boxing career started thanks to a Louisville police officer. At the age of twelve when a thief snatched his bicycle, he ran to report what happened to the policeman, Joe Martin – who was at the Columbia Gym in the city of Louisville, which he was in charge of – when he saw the kid crying and saying that he wanted to hit the thief, Joe Martin recommended him to learn to box before getting into any fight. After a while Cassius was delighted with the gym and after his first fight, in which he ended up quite hurt, he began to train with more effort under the instruction of Martin himself.
During his youth, he compensated his lack of application for academics with his dedication to sports. Throughout that time, Muhammad Ali won the golden gloves of Kentucky in 6 occasions which allowed the director of the school to look at him with respect, despite his bad grades. There is a rumor that says that one time, the director of the school told the rest of the faculty that Clay would make the school famous one day.
The amateur record held by Ali was 100-5 (Hundred victories – five loses).
In 1960, Muhammad won one of the highest honors an athlete can win. He won a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rome, in the lightweight category. Since that moment he was considered a professional boxer and began training with one of the most important boxing coaches of the time: Angelo Dundee, which has helped sportsmen like Luis Rodriguez, Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman, Carmen Basilio and José Naples to reach their potential.
His first victory in the professional boxing was on October 29, 1960. The opponent in that fight was Tunney Hunsaker. This victory was only the first of many because in the next three years he would hold a 19-0 record. 15 of those finished by knockouts.
His most memorable fights were against Sonny Banks, Alejandro Lavorante and Archie Moore. However, he also faced legends such as: Tony Esperti, Donnie Fleeman, Alonzo Johnson, Willi Besmanoff, Jim Robinson, Duke Sabedong and Lamar Clark, among others.
As a professional, Muhammad Ali won the title of undisputed champion in the heavyweight category in 1964, at the age of twenty-two years old. He, Muhammad Ali, would become part of the boxing history and be chosen like one of the best boxing athletes in the 20th century after taking away – in seven rounds – the belt from the heavyweight world champion Sonny Liston.
In 1964, Cassius Clay, as he had been known, converted to the Islam and said that he would change his name to “Muhammad Ali” which means “The beloved of God”. He chose it because “Clay” was a slave surname that he had not chosen.
Few years later he faced Sonny Liston again and defeated him in the first round. The fight ended with what is considered “one of the most beautiful KOs in boxing history”, known as the phantom hand.
In 1967, Ali refused to join the army during the Vietnam War and one of the reasons was that he was a Muslim. He declared himself to be a conscientious objector. Ali did not mind having a punishment of five years in prison and a $ 10,000 fine for refusing to serve in the Armed Forces. Consequently, he was accused of desertion and the boxing authorities took away his current title. He returned to the ring in 1970 and won two fights. One year after, in 1971 the Supreme Court of the United States revoked his sentence.
As for his personal life we can say that he got married four times and had seven daughters and two sons. His first wife was Sonji Roi Clay, followed by Belinda Boyd, then Veronica Porche and finally married Yolanda Williams. He has nine children divided into their different marriages.
Ali fought for the last time on December 11, 1981 in Nassau that time he lost to Trevor Berbick. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1984 and one of his doctors said that his career as a boxer could have caused it due to the hits that impacted on his head.
Ali lit the Olympic flame at the stadium in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. On July 27 of 2012, he was the holder of the Olympic flag during the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games 2012 Memorial Day in London. Muhammad died on June 4 of 2016, at 74 years of age. He died in a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, where he was admitted due to respiratory problems. The funeral took place on June 10th in which the funeral procession crossed the city of Louisville to culminate in the cemetery of Cave Hill where his remains were burned. The previous day a ceremony had been celebrated under the Islamic rite.