Born Cassius Marcellus Clay on Jan. 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky, to middle-class parents, Ali started boxing when he was 12. It is said that this was after he had his bike stolen, so he could "whoop" whoever stole it! Police office Joe Martin had told him "Well, you better learn how to fight before you start challenging people."
Ali became an Olympic Gold Medallist in 1960, and went on to be the World heavyweight boxing champion, when he knocked out Sonny Liston in 1964. Shortly after the fight he announced his conversion to Islam. That is when the name Muhammad Ali came to life.
One thing is for sure, Ali was never afraid to proclaim he was the greatest, even before matches. It was this exclamation of greatness which indeed made him great, as it was not just his words, but his actions, and his thoughts which proved this to be true. His outspoken nature, led him to speak against the Vietnam war, as well as refusing to serve based on his beliefs. He was then arrested for felony and was found guilty of violating Selective Service laws and sentenced to five years in prison in June 1967.
In 1971 he fought against Joe Frazier, and it was called the "Fight of the Century." The judges awarded the final decision to Frazier, handing Ali his first professional loss after 31 wins. In 1974 in a fight against George Foreman, Ali made his comeback! And reclaimed his heavy weight title once again, silencing his critics. After losing the title in 1978, he went on yet again to reclaim it and became the only boxer to win the heavyweight champion title three times!
In 1981 the great boxer Muhammad Ali, retired. He went on to become a great philanthropist. Having being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, he became more active in foundation and charity work for multiple organisations. Ali travelled to many countries to help out those in need. In 1998, he was chosen to be a United Nations Messenger of Peace for his work in developing nations.
Ali's condition grew worse within a few years. In 2015, Ali was hospitalized for a severe urinary tract infection after having battled pneumonia. He was hospitalized again in 2016 for a respiratory issue. The athlete passed away on the evening of June 3, 2016, in Phoenix, Arizona. Ali has been married four times, and has children from his previous and current marriage. One of his daughters, Laila Ali, has gone on to become a champion boxer herself.
His legacy has definitely left a mark, and it is a day of mourning for many, as they remember Ali's life, and all the greatness that he epitomised. I believe he will continue to be respected for all time, and will go down as one of the greatest athletes in history.
Rest in Peace Muhammad Ali.
“THE FIGHT IS WON OR LOST FAR AWAY FROM WITNESSES—BEHIND THE LINES, IN THE GYM, AND OUT THERE ON THE ROAD, LONG BEFORE I DANCE UNDER THOSE LIGHTS.”