One of the most recognised sportspersons in the world, Ali was crowned “Sportsman of the Century.
After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, boxing legend Muhammad Ali died on Saturday following his hospitalisation two days ago for respiratory ailments in Phoenix in the USA.
With his demise, an era has come to an end because Ali was not just one of the greatest heavyweights in the history of boxing.
He was a crusader for human rights often taking up issues that were considered sensitive, controversial and even anti-national.
One of the most recognised sportspersons in the world, Ali was crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by the Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by BBC.
Here are 10 things you would like to know about “The Greatest”, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee in the boxing ring:
1. Muhammad Ali was born as Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky, USA.
His father’s name was Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. Both the father and son were named after Cassius Marcellus Clay, the 19th-century abolitionist and politician.
2. A police officer guided Ali to boxing when he was 12-year-old after the boy told him that he would “whup” a thief who stole his bicycle. The officer told him to learn boxing first.
3. Clay went on to win six Kentucky Gold Gloves titles, two National Gold Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union title and a gold medal in Light Heavyweight category in the Rome Olympics in 1960. He won 100 amateur bouts and lost only five.
4. On October 29, 1960, Clay made his professional boxing debut defeating Tony Hunsaker. For the next three years, he was unbeaten with a record of 19-0.
5. On February 25, 1964, 22-year-old Clay became the youngest boxer to snatch the coveted world heavyweight title from a reigning champion when he beat Sony Liston. Soon after becoming world champion, he converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
6. He remained unbeaten for till March 22, 1967, when he was stripped of his title due to his refusal to join US Army that was fighting Vietnam War on the ground of religious beliefs and opposition to America’s attack on the far-eastern country.
He famously said: “No Vietcong ever called me nigger.” His boxing license was cancelled by the state of New York and he was barred for three years.
He was convicted for draft evasion (refusal to join US Army) and sentenced to five years in jail. He was granted bail after paying a bond and successfully challenged the sentence in US Supreme Court.
7. Ali returned to the ring on October 26, 1970 winning the bout and was set to face world champion Joe Frazier in a bout billed as “Fight of the Century”. Ali lost the fight, his first professional defeat. He, however, avenged his defeat three years later.
8. Ali regained the heavyweight title on October 30, 1974, by beating reigning champion George Foreman, who, after the fight, said: “Ali outthought and outfought me”.
9. Ali remains the only three-time lineal world heavyweight champion winning title in 1964, 1974 and 1978. He lost only thrice in his professional career – to Frazier in 1970, Larry Homes in 1980 and Trever Berbick in 1981 in his last fight.
10. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome in 1984. But despite failing health, he involved himself in several social and cultural activities including meeting former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to negotiate the release of American hostages in 1991 and going to Afghanistan in 2002 as the UN Messenger of Peace. His biopic “Ali’ was published in 2001.
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