In some peoples eyes Muhammed Ali is the greatest boxer ever. He has always been classified as great! He was even classified as the greatest athlete in the 20th century by Sports Illustrated.He was the first to win the heavyweight title three times! He was a worldwide entertainer, and millions of people enjoyed watching his style. He was also very controversial because of his religious beliefs, his name change from Cassius Clay to Muhammed Ali and his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War.
Muhammed Ali grew up in Louisville, Kentucky but he was known as Cassius Clay. He lived a normal life until the age of twelve when his bicycle was stolen during a local convention of the Louisville Service Club. Clay wanted to report the crime and went to find a police officer. He found Joe Martin, an officer and a boxing coach at the Columbia Gym . Clay told Martin “Im going to whip the person who stole my bike.”Martin then proceeded to tell Clay that if he wanted to do that he should come to the gym and learn how to fight properly. Clay was a small man when he started boxing as an amateur; he weighed only eighty-nine pounds. Clay would soon become the man to see at the Columbia Gym. Joe Martins wife said that Clay was an overall nice guy. He was polite and always did what he was asked to do. He carried his Bible with him all the time, read when he could, and loved it. Throughout his amateur career and high school, Clay worked at the Nazareth College Library. Clay also was viewed as a kid obsessed with boxing. Clay got bigger and stronger as his talents grew. Sometimes, to keep in shape, Clay would race the city buses to school. Bettie Johnson, a school counselor said “Clay wasnt a good student, and if he had not been a boxer, he would not have stood out in any way but he went to school like he was supposed to.”Clay never had any problems with his attitude in school, but as a senior he wrote a paper about Black Muslims. Clays paper was controversial because his teacher was a conforming Christian and his ideas about separatism and blacks being super-assertive scared her. The teacher wasnt going to pass Clay, but the principal said “the boy will not fail, because hes going to be an outstanding boxer.”Clay was becoming a boxing phenomenon; the first newspaper article about him was published on October 27, 1957. By then Clay had been boxing for 3 years and was clearly the number one contender for the light-heavyweight championship in the Golden Gloves amateur ranks. He was arguably ready for the challenge after he knocked out Donnie Hall in the fourth round. Cassius Clay was a small opponent for Hall, and even outweighed Clay by eleven and a half pounds. Clay would continue to practice at the Columbia Gym until late at night. He could never stop moving his arms. He was always anxious and ready to fight. Clay became the Golden Gloves light-heavyweight champion and moved on to the heavyweight division. Clay had fought and won thirty-six consecutive fights by May 1, 1959 and said “Im a baaaaad man!”But his winning steak was broken when Amos Johnson beat him at the Pan-American Games trials.After that loss Clay never lost an amateur fight again! Clay proceeded to the Rome Olympics and won the light-heavyweight gold medal. Immediately after winning the gold medal, Clay was subjected to horrible comments about his race and his religion, which forced him to throw his gold medal away because he felt that people did not accept him.
Cassius Clay was a great amateur boxer, and won 100 out of 108 fights. He won consecutive titles in the AAU and the Golden Gloves amateur divisions. Clay started his professional career at age eighteen, and was paid $10,000 up front and then signed a two year contract for $4,000 a year.He went through nineteen opponents, the likes of Archie Moore, Billy Daniels, Doug Jones, Henry Cooper, Dennis Fleeman, and Jim Robinson.He then went on to challenge Sonny Liston for the heavyweight title. Clay was considered the underdog and shocked the world by forcing Liston to stop the fight after the sixth round. After the fight Clay told the world that he had accepted the teaching of Islam and was changing his name to Muhammed Ali. Ali wrote poetry about his opponents, which would describe how he would beat them. He also created one of his famous quotes in his poetry and said “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”Another part of Alis arrogance was that he boxed with his left hand down and just backed away from the punches of his opponent, both of these are considered cardinal sins of boxing. Even through all of his arrogance, he still had lightning fast reflexes, great mobility, and probably the best jab in boxing. His first title defense was a rematch against Sonny Liston, and again shocked the world with a first round knockout.Ali right after his victory over Zora Folley followed his religious beliefs and refused induction into the United States Army. Because of this he was arrested and stripped of the heavyweight title, and his boxing license was revoked. He did not fight from March 22,1967 to October 26, 1970. Many fight fans believe that those years could have been his best. During the period Ali was not boxing, Smokin Joe Frazier stormed through the heavyweight division and won the heavyweight title. In 1970 Ali made his triumphant return to the boxing world after his conviction was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court and his license reinstated. He impressively defeated Jerry Quarry and Oscar Bonavena. After those fights and his return Ali stated that “Its just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I just beat up people.”With those two wins under his belt he then felt it necessary to challenge Joe Frazier to one of the most highly acclaimed fights ever. This was considered by many fans to have been the greatest fight, considering the fact that both fighters were undefeated. Ali proclaimed himself the peoples champion and said, “to be the king, you must defeat me.”In the fifteenth round of the fight, Frazier knocked Ali down and won the fight by unanimous decision. Before Ali could get a rematch at Frazier, George Foreman defeated Frazier. Finally in 1974, Ali fought Frazier again and beat him by knocking him out in the twelfth round. The Ali vs. Frazier II fight set up “the Rumble in the Jungle,” against George Foreman. Foreman was thirty-two and thought by many to be invincible, and once again Ali was given little chance. In their fight in Kinsasha, Zaire, Ali used the now famous rope-a-dope technique, which tired Foreman out. Ali then took advantage and knocked out Foreman in the eighth round to become the two time heavyweight champion. After his fight with Foreman, Ali stated that, “the man who has no imagination has no wings.”From October 30, 1974 to February 15, 1977 Ali defeated ten opponents. The fights included the third chapter in the Joe Frazier and Ken Norton trilogies. On February 15, 1977 in Las Vegas, Olympic gold medallist, Leon Spinks who was fighting in only his eighth professional fight, upset Ali in fifteen rounds to become the new heavyweight champ. However, only after six months, Ali defeated Spinks in fifteen rounds to become the heavyweight champion for a record third time. Even though Ali was the champion, he was past his prime. Ali in 1978 stated that “service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”Ali had only two professional fights left in him. He lost both fights and the title to Larry Holmes. He was knocked out for the first time ever. His last fight was against Trevor Berbrick and lost a ten round decision.
Muhammed Alis final professional fight record was fifty-six wins and five loses. He knocked out thirty-seven of his opponents and his last fight was on December 11, 1981. He was inducted into the boxing hall of fame in 1990. At the age of fifty Ali said “the man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.”Since throwing his gold medal away in Rome, Ali had been gaining fame ever since. After retiring from boxing Ali has been doing charity work for his community in Louisville. In 1986, he was presented with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for his lifetime achievements in promoting peace, unity, for his charitable donations and for sports. Ali is now the most recognized athlete throughout the world, and he was given the opportunity to light the Olympic flame at the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta. Also during those Olympics, Ali was given an exact replica of the gold medal he threw away many years ago. Muhammed Ali now has Parkinsons disease, and is battling the disease every step of the way. He was appointed the spokesman for the National Parkinsons Foundation where he brings pride, hope, and faith to others who also battle the disease.
Boxing fans now regard Muhammed Ali as a genuine artist of the sport and a legendary hero. Ali revitalized the sport and is known for more than just his boxing accomplishments. Muhammed Ali has changed forever what we expect a champion to be.
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