Muhammad Ali is a retired boxer and former three-time World Heavyweight Champion.
Ali won an Olympic gold medal in the light heavyweight division. During his professional career, he became the only man to win the linear heavyweight championship three times. In 1999, Ali was named “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated.
1. Cassius Marcellus Clay
Muhammad Ali was born, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. He was named after his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. Ali changed his name after joining the Nation of Islam in 1964.
2. Fighting Style
Ali was known for his fighting style, which he described as “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Ali made a name for himself with his speed and swift foot work. He was known for his taunting tactics and his style which was described as fast and sharp. He could also take a punch, and therefore was seen as a man of great courage, with a strong chin, throughout his fighting career.
3. Gold Medal Winner
Ali won the gold medal at the Rome Olympics in 1960. The win was a bit of a surprise as he was still seen as an amateur fighter.
4. Cocky Attitude
Ali was known for his cocky attitude. His poetry and self-promoting quips were his trademarks. Ali was vocal about his love for what he did and who he was and he used every media opportunity to remind others of it.
5. A Softer Side
Although Ali was very vocal about his high self-esteem, he had a softer side that only those closest to him were able to see. Although he was a joker with the press, he was loved his fans and made it a point very early in his career to devote as much time to them as possible. He never turned anyone down who asked for an autograph and he went through all of his fan mail personally.
6. Match vs. Liston
At that time, boxing and the mob were closely related. Mob members did not like Ali’s self-loving attitude. Ali was matched up with Sonny Liston, a known mob thug, in his fight for the heavyweight title. Ali was definitely threatened by Liston.
7. Draft Dodging
Ali was criticized as being unpatriotic because he refused to join the Army during the Vietnam War. He was prosecuted for draft dodging, and the boxing commissions took away his license. Unfortunately he was at the peak of his career and was forced to put his boxing career on hold for the next 3 and a half years. After the war, he was pardoned and bore no ill will toward the government.
8. “Rumble in the Jungle”
In one of his first fights following the suspension of his boxing license, Ali knocked out George Foreman in the ring during the eighth round of their fight in Zaire. This famous fight is known as the “Rumble in the Jungle.” At this point Ali was convinced that boxing, the sport he loved, was everything. Some say that he loved it too much because he did not know when it was time to leave it.
9. Parkinson’s DiseaseMany believe that it was Ali’s inability to give up the sport that led to his decline in health. Ali was officially diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1984. Despite his disability, Ali remains in the public eye as an active figure and ambassador to not only his sport but to American athletics.
10. Lighting the Torch
One of the country’s most memorable Muhammad Ali moments took place when he opened the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. He wore a white gym suit as he lit the Olympic torch. Many remember that he was able to hold his torch bearing hand steady as his other arm trembled (from the Parkinson’s) at his side.