Born Cassius Marcellus Clay on January 17th, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky Muhammad Ali began his boxing career at the young age of 12. After winning the young future People’s Champ, he went on to win the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. After this fight, Ali turned professional and was destined for greatness.


Ali was a ruthless boxer who often mocked and taunted his opponents in the ring. But as the saying goes,  “If you can talk shit make sure you can back it up,” which he did. In 1959 Ali was named Golden Gloves Champion.  Ali has won both Sportsman Of the Century and Sports Personality of the Century. Ali has a total of 57 wins, 37 Knockouts, and only 5 losses. Ali won the World Heavyweight Championship in 1964, 1974, and 1978 making him the only three time lineal World Heavyweight Champion. Muhammad fought his last boxing match at the age of 39 against Jamaican Canadian boxer Trevor Berbick. The fight was in The Bahamas on December 11, 1980. After a ten round fight, Ali eventually lost. Ali has a total of 57 wins, 37 Knockouts, and only 5 losses.Three years later in 1984 Ali announced his fight with Parkinson’s disease. This important transition in his life lead him to open hi own charity, Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center located in Phoenix, Arizona.

Unbeknownst to many, back when Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) was training for his upcoming fight against Sonny Liston, he met Malcolm X. The two became close friends and X turned into a mentor to Ali and introduced him to the Nation of Islam. Ali went on to defeat Liston in Miami despite the odds against him. After the fight Muhammad Ali studied rigorously about The Nation Of Islam eventually fully dedicated himself. Muhammad Ali announced his name change from Cassius Clay and that he was a member of The Nation of Islam.

Ali stands over Sonny Liston

Not only was Ali an athlete, he was also a political activist. During his professional boxing career Ali openly opposed the draft and made headlines when he refused to enlist in the draft. He was stripped of his title (it was then given to Joe Frazier) and disliked by many Americans when that occurred. He was banned from boxing for 3 years and he was faced with a five year prison term. The conviction was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court and Ali was allowed to return to boxing but the impact of his actions was undeniable. But he was also seen as a prominent figure among many Black Americans, especially during that time. With the strain of the everyday fight for civil rights, it was a good feeling for many Black American to see a man of color who was a celebrity and loved by many Americans, stand up for what he believed in. Not only has Ali supported black civil rights, he has also supported civil rights for multiple other minorities. Ali completed The Longest Walk in support of Native Americans rights. In 1990 Muhammad Ali fearlessly traveled to Iraq to negotiate with Saddam Hussein for the release of American hostages. Ali has even convinced a suicidal man from jumping off a building. Ali’s reach knew no bounds.

Muhammad Ali left this world on June 3, 2016. Not only was he a great sportsman and political figure, he was a crucial figure in black history and the history of America. Today we remember Muhammad Ali, a man with not only hands  but also a way with words. My children and many generations to come will know the story of Muhammad Ali. His legacy will live on forever.

Muhammad Ali poses during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
REUTERS/Andreas Meier

Rest in Peace and Happy Birthday to the The Greatest.

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