Muhammad Ali is regarded as the greatest boxer and athlete of the last century. Because of his achievements and fame, his name has become a synonym of the boxing arena. An Olympic Gold Medalist and former Heavyweight champion, Ali is an international icon and an inspiration to many he is our Black Sheep of the Month Muhammad Ali.
Cassius Marcellus Clay (Muhammad Ali) was born on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky to Odessa Lee Clay and Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. He got his former name from his father who used to paint billboards. His mother was a domestic helper. Ali and his brother Rahman attended Central High School. The renowned boxer was dyslexic and had difficulty writing and reading.
Ali grew up during extreme racial segregation and racism. As a child, he was not allowed water just because of his skin color. In his youth, he experienced racial segregation that influenced his unassailable mind.
Muhammad Ali got into boxing when he was twelve years old. Joe Martin – a police officer and a boxing coach – recognized the potential that the kid had and hence, offered to teach him boxing. Ali didn’t accept the offer initially but ultimately came around and was trained by Fred Stoner, whom he gave credit for his style and stamina.
Muhammad Ali made his amateur boxing debut in 1954 against a local wrestler. Afterwards, he recorded 100 amateur wins, including a gold medal in 1960 Summer Olympics. He later won two national Golden Gloves Titles.
After he returned home from Olympics, he started his professional boxing career. He was great at it and remained undefeated for three consecutive years. During that period, most of his fights ended in knockouts. The youngest boxer even went against a heavyweight champion title holder and won.
In one of his most popular matches, Ali shocked the world by defeating Sonny Liston – the world heavyweight champion – in just six rounds in 1965. Afterwards, he announced his conversion to Islam and joined the Nation of Islam (NOI). He announced the change of his name to Muhammad Ali as well.
In 1967, when Vietnam War was at its height, the boxing champion received his induction notice. Rather than quietly avoiding the draft, Muhammad Ali publicly announced that he refused induction. Soon after, government officials tried and sentenced him to five years in jail for escaping the draft, however, the boxer remained free pending appeals. United States boxing officials suspended his license and stripped him of his boxing title. During his suspension period, Ali became an activist and toured the country, speaking to antiwar groups and civil rights organizations.
In 1970, Ali’s boxing privileges were reinstated. That same year, he won a heavyweight title in New York City. A year later, he lost the title fight to Joe Frazier in the same city. The epic rematch took place in January, 1974, where Ali defeated Frazier. In the same year, Ali defeated Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire to regain his title in a match labeled as “The Rumble in the Jungle”. Ali and Frazier fought a third time in October, 1975 in Quezon City in a match that is referred to as the “Fight of the Century” by many. The match was officially labeled as “The Thrilla in Manila” where Ali and Frazier fought in 100-degree temperatures. Muhammad Ali won the match via a technical knockout (TKO).
In early 1978, Leon Spinks defeated Ali, leading to Ali losing his title. However, later that same year, Ali regained the title in a rematch and became the first boxer to win a championship three times. The renowned boxer retired with the title but returned to fight in 1980 to face Larry Holmes. Ali failed to secure a win and in 1981, he retired permanently with an overall professional record of 56-5. At that time, he was the most popular athlete in the world.
After his retirement from his boxing career, Muhammad Ali Devoted his life to humanitarian efforts. He promoted world peace, cross-cultural understanding, civil rights, and religious tolerance. Even after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984, Ali continued his efforts towards giving back to communities. He became involved in raising funds for various organizations, such as the Special Olympics, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center, and more.
Ali also served those in need overseas and provided more than 232 million meals to starving people in third-world countries. This includes hand delivering medical supplies and food to children in Morocco, Mexico, Indonesia, among other countries. Because of his charitable work throughout developing nations, he was selected to be a United Nations Messenger of Peace.
Muhammad Ali became the greatest boxer of all time because of his devout training regimen as well as his mental discipline. His popular 5th Street Gym workout started about seven miles outside the confines of the gym. According to Angelo Dundee – longtime trainer of Ali – the boxing champion would often run from his apartment in Miami to the gym. His training consisted of a combination of core-strengthening exercise and cardiovascular activity. He would perform a wide range of sit-ups, including legs slightly raised and leg lifts. Furthermore, he would also perform several sets of reverse bicycle crunches. Jump rope was also a part of his training regimen. He would jump rope side-to-side and back-and-forth. Afterwards, he would shadow box in front of a mirror for multiple rounds, testing his mental fortitude and endurance.Ali trained like a champion to become the greatest boxer and athlete of all time through ferocious vigor and unparalleled discipline.
Most Notable Moments
Arguably the most notable moment of the renowned boxer was when he announced his name change from Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. to Muhammad Ali after converting to Islam. He became extremely popular with his superb performance in the ring as the century’s leading Lineal heavyweight boxer and the only boxer to be labeled six times as “The Ring magazine Fighter of the Year”.
In the 1960s, Ali was also a critical figure in the Civil Rights Movement and was referred to as the “Champion of Freedom”. In 1999, Sports Illustrated – the most recognized American magazine – ranked Ali as the “Sportsman of the Century”, a fitting title to a man who surpassed celebrity and boxing.
Legacy of the Black Sheep of the Month Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali is no doubt one of the greatest athletes in the world and the most popular boxer of all time. However, his legacy goes beyond his career as a professional boxer. He was outspoken amid the time when religious acceptance was unpopular and segregation was apparent. Despite struggling with his worsening medical condition, he continued to remain active through charitable contributions and public life. Although he is not with us, his fearless attitude, firm beliefs, and determination to win make him alive in our hearts and encourage us to follow our dreams and move forward, no matter how difficult the path of glory may be. We hope you enjoyed this month’s Black Sheep of the Month Muhammad Ali. Till next time!–The Black Sheep