A man of high principals, he was a controversial figure both in the ring and outside. So, here's to the legend:
Life and career
Born as Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky, he was the elder of the 4 boys in the household. Ali had to struggle his way out through childhood due to poverty. While his father painted billboards and signs, his mother was a household help.
He was directed to boxing by Louisville police officer and boxing coach Joe E. Martin, who once found the then 12-year old boy fuming over a thief taking his bicycle. When he said that he was going to "whup" the thief, the officer told him to learn to box first. Thus, for the last four years of Clay's amateur career, he was trained by boxing cutman Chuck Bodak.
Clay won six kentucky Golden Gloves, two national Golden Gloves titles an Amateur Athletic Union National Title, and the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. It is said that he had thrown his gold medal into the Ohio river after he and a friend were refused a diner's service and fought with a gang. However, the authenticity of the incident has been debated ever since.
Beginning of a career
Clay made his debut on October 29, 1960 and there was no looking back after that. He won six-round decision over Tunney Hunsaker. Till 1963, he had amassed a record of 19-0 with 15 wins by knockout. He defeated boxers including Tony Esperti, Jim Robinson, Donnie Fleeman, Alonzo Johnson, George Logan, Willi Besmanoff, Lamar Clark, Doug Jones and Henry Cooper. He also beat his former trainer and boxer Archie Moore in a 1962 match.
However, his career was not without controversies as he belittled the men standing opposite to him inside the boxing ring. This, in fact, drew the ire of many boxing fans.
Exile and Comeback
Ali refused to be inducted in the armed forces, satting clearly "no Vietcong ever called me nigger". Following this, he was denied a boxing license in every state and stripped of his passport. As a result, he could not play between the age of 25 and 29 as his case worked it way out. However, in 1971, the Supreme Court of USA overturned his conviction.
During his inactivity in Boxing, he took to a different kind of activism, speaking in public places and colleges and criticizing the Vietnam war and advocating African American pride and racial justice.
He finally, returned to the ring when he was granted a license to box by the City of Atlanta Athletic Commission, thanks to State Senator Leroy R. Johnson.
Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's syndrome in 1984, which is common in boxers. Despite that, Ali was active and was also appointed as a guest referee at WrestleMania.
During this time, he published an oral history Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser, in 1991. That very year, he travelled to Iraq to meet Saddam Hussain and negotiate th ereturn of the US soldiers. As hi shealth took a toll on his body, Ali started travelling to different countries on peace missions.
Ali had many ups and downs in his personal life and career, but his self-reliance was his sole driving force. Like his life, his death too came in style. Indeed, he could be knocked down, but was never beaten out. A life worth living!