Bhubaneswar, June 3: Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky, was one of the most renowned and influential professional boxers in history. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time and an icon of the 20th century.
Here are some key highlights of Muhammad Ali’s life and achievements:
Olympic Gold Medal: In 1960, at the age of 18, Ali won the gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the Rome Olympics. This marked the beginning of his boxing career and showcased his exceptional talent.
World Heavyweight Champion: Ali became the World Heavyweight Champion at the age of 22 when he defeated Sonny Liston in 1964. He was known for his unique boxing style, which combined speed, agility, and powerful punches.
Conversion to Islam and Name Change: In 1964, Clay publicly announced his conversion to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali, shedding what he called his “slave name.” He joined the Nation of Islam and later embraced Sunni Islam.
Opposition to the Vietnam War: Ali’s refusal to be drafted into the U.S. military during the Vietnam War due to his religious and moral beliefs made headlines worldwide. He famously said, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them, Viet Cong.” As a result, he was stripped of his boxing titles and faced a temporary ban from the sport.
The Rumble in the Jungle: In 1974, Ali regained the heavyweight title in a legendary bout against George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). Ali employed his “rope-a-dope” strategy, allowing Foreman to exhaust himself before delivering a knockout punch in the eighth round.
Thrilla in Manila: In 1975, Ali faced his rival, Joe Frazier, for the third time in a highly anticipated bout dubbed the “Thrilla in Manila.” The fight was an epic battle, lasting 14 rounds before Frazier’s trainer threw in the towel, giving Ali the victory.
Legacy and Cultural Impact: Beyond his boxing achievements, Ali made a significant impact on society and popular culture. He was known for his charismatic personality, quick wit, and poetic trash-talking. Ali’s activism, particularly his advocacy for civil rights and his outspokenness on social issues inspired many around the world.
Sportsman of the Century: In 1999, Ali was honored with the title of “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC.
Humanitarian Work: Ali dedicated himself to various humanitarian causes, including advocating for peace, promoting racial and religious tolerance, and supporting charities. He used his fame and platform to raise awareness and make a positive impact on society.
Presidential Medal of Freedom: In 2005, Ali was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, for his extraordinary achievements and contributions to society.
Muhammad Ali’s life and career left an indelible mark on the world of boxing and beyond. He remains an iconic figure who transcended his sport and used his platform to fight for justice and inspire generations.
He breathed his last on June 3rd, 2016.