Legends never die they always stay alive in our memories and in the hearts of those who love them. Born in Kentucky on January 17th 1942, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. Clay began his training when he was 12 with an odd twist in fate. His bike was stolen, and Ali told a police officer that he wanted to beat up the thief. “Well, you better learn how to fight before you start challenging people” that’s when Ali began his training in local boxing club.
MUHAMMAD ALI’S EARLY YEARS
Clay made his professional debut on October 29, 1960, when he was just eighteen, winning straight 19 matches with 15 knockouts. He defeated some renowned boxers of that time. Muhammad Ali 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. Ali’s amateur record was 100 wins with five losses.
By late 1963, when Clay just turned 22, he had become the top contender for World Heavyweight Champion. With that dedication and motivation, Clay became the youngest boxer to hold the title of Heavyweight Champion, defeating the reigning champion, Sonny Liston.
Just after winning the heavyweight champion, Clay died and Muhammad Ali was born. Muhammad Ali, remained with a true Muslim character throughout his life. Muhammad Ali, travelled Canada and Europe, fighting and winning and becoming The Greatest.
Muhammad Ali was a man of rules and he never back down to what he thinks is right. In March 1966, for citing his religious beliefs, Ali refused to be inducted into the armed forces to fight in Vietnam war. He was systematically denied a boxing license in every state. He was convicted of draft evasion on June 20 and sentenced to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He paid a bond and remained free while the verdict was being appealed.
As a result, he did not fight for almost four years, during his prime years, as his case worked its way through the appeals process before his conviction was overturned in 1971. During this time of inactivity, Ali spoke at colleges and arranged seminars across the nation, criticizing the Vietnam War and advocating African American pride and racial justice.
“I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.”
MUHAMMAD ALI’S RETURN TO THE RING
After 43 months in exile, Ali returned to the ring on October 26, 1970 with a massive fan following after he converted to Islam, opposed Vietnamian war and racial justice. Ali’s outspokenness on issues of race, religion and politics made him a controversial figure during his career. Ali had a highly unorthodox boxing style for a heavyweight, epitomized by his catchphrase “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee“.
He won the Heavyweight title three times in his whole career and he defended his title 19 times. On December 11, 1981, the 39-year-old Ali retired with an exceptional career record of 56 wins, five losses and 37 knockouts.
In one of the interviews, a journalist asked, “how many sit ups do you do?” on which Muhammad Ali replied, “I don’t count my sit ups; I only start counting when it stats hurting because they’re the ones that count.”
MUHAMMAD ALI’S LATER YEARS AND LEGACY
In 1984 Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome, possibly connected to the severe head trauma suffered during his boxing career. The former champion’s motor skills slowly declined, and his movement and speech were limited.
In spite of the Parkinson’s, Ali remained in the public spotlight, traveling the world to make humanitarian, goodwill and charitable appearances. He met with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in 1990 to negotiate the release of American hostages, and in 2002 he traveled to Afghanistan as a United Nations Messenger of Peace.
The following year, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
“I’m in no pain,” he told The New York Times. “A slight slurring of my speech, a little tremor. Nothing critical. If I was in perfect health — if I had won my last two fights — if I had no problem, people would be afraid of me. Now they feel sorry for me. They thought I was Superman. Now they can go, ‘He’s human, like us. He has problems. Everybody pities the weak, jealousy you have to earn’
Ali had the honor of lighting the cauldron during the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
In 1999 Ali was voted the BBC’s “Sporting Personality of the Century,” and Sports Illustrated named him “Sportsman of the Century.” Ali was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a 2005 by George W. Bush and in the same year the $60 million Muhammad Ali Center, a nonprofit museum and cultural center focusing on peace and social responsibility, opened in Louisville.
Ring Magazine named Ali “Fighter of the Year” five times, more than any other boxer, and he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
Divorced three times and the father of nine children — one of whom, Laila, become a boxer — Ali married his last wife, Yolanda “Lonnie” Williams, in 1986; they lived for a long time in Berrien Springs, Michigan, then moved to Arizona.
In recent years, Ali’s health began to suffer dramatically. There was a death scare in 2013, and last year he was rushed to the hospital after being found unresponsive. He recovered and returned to his new home in Arizona.
Ali did not shy from politics or controversy, releasing a statement in December criticizing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. “We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda,” he said.
Ali had suffered for three decades from Parkinson’s, a progressive neurological condition that slowly robbed him of both his verbal grace and his physical dexterity. After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. Muhammad Ali, the silver-tongued boxer and civil rights champion who famously proclaimed himself “The Greatest” died on Friday June 3, 2016 at a Phoenix-area hospital, where he had spent the past few days being treated for respiratory complications and was buried on June 10, 2016, Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky, United States.
In his final years, Ali was barely able to speak. Asked to share his personal philosophy with NPR in 2009, Ali let his wife read his essay:
“I never thought of the possibility of failing, only of the fame and glory I was going to get when I won,” Ali wrote. “I could see it. I could almost feel it. When I proclaimed that I was the greatest of all time, I believed in myself, and I still do.”