“I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick; I’m so mean I make medicine sick. ” – Muhammad Ali, 1974. They call him The Greatest, The Louisville Lip, or even The People’s Champion. Surely this man should be recognized with such high-valued nicknames; if not, then this man is the one and only Muhammad Ali. This man is not only known as a revolutionary boxer, but also one of the greatest entertainers of all time.
Muhammad Ali has proven his position as an entertainer by many of his sayings; his quotes influenced the public all over the world, giving him an unparalleled popularity level. His quips even became more famous than many presidential quotes. The famous quote above was one of many Muhammad Ali made in 1974 before the bout against another great fighter, George Foreman, in a conference hall. Muhammad Ali was not his original full name; this name was given when he converted his religion from Christianity to Islam. A man named Elijah Muhammad gave Muhammad Ali’s name as he stated that his former name, being Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. as a slave’s name. Muhammad meant “One worthy of phrase,” and Ali was the name of a great general, the cousin of Elijah Muhammad.
Muhammad Ali developed his natural talent for boxing at the age twelve, discovered due to an unexpected event. He was casually riding his bicycle on a paved path, when out of the blue a young boy of similar age comes up from behind and knocked Muhammad off his bicycle and rode away. A man named Joe Martin and a Louisville officer arrived and asked what happened. Muhammad simply replied, “I’m going to ‘whup’ the thief! ” Joe Martin responded, “Well you better start boxing. Joe Martin was a local boxing instructor to young boxers, so Ali learnt how to box with the instructor for four years. Muhammad won his first fight by split decision in an amateur bout in 1954. Ali went on to win three more titles which were the 1956 Golden Gloves in the light heavyweight class, and three years later went on to win both national Golden Gloves and the Amateur Athletic Union’s national title. Ali became an American hero as he defeated Zbigniew Pietrzkowski from Poland to win the gold medal in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Italy.
After this historic event, Ali began his professional career in boxing. Ali seemed to be undefeatable as he won all his bouts, with the majority being knockouts. He became the heavyweight champion of the world by knocking out Sonny Liston, who the year before took out British heavyweight champion, Henry Cooper in 1963. Two years later, Ali created another fight, but this fight was political.
The situation was Ali refusing to be drafted for military service in the Vietnam War; his religious beliefs stopped him from joining in as he was a ‘practising Muslim minister’. In 1967, Ali was found guilty by the U. S. Department of Justice. This case went on to a ‘lengthy’ court battle, where in the end Ali cleared his name, but the catch was having the boxing association stripping his title and suspending him for three and half years. Ali, later on, returned to the ring in 1970, winning his match after his suspension against Jerry Quarry in October in Atlanta. In the following year, Ali was in a bout with arch-nemesis Joe Frazier, which was dubbed “Fight of the Century”; the bout went on for 15 rounds before Frazier knocked Ali to the ground. In 1974, Ali took his revenge in a rematch against him.
History was made in the same year; “Rumble in the Jungle” was the bout that had everyone talking, and Ali was up against the reigning heavy weight champion, George Forman. Ali went on to win the match and became the champion of the world, silencing his critics who thought that Ali would never come and take back his title. In 1975, arguably the toughest bout was against his arch-nemesis Joe Frazier in the “Thrilla in Manilla” fight, which was held in Quezon City, Philippines. The match went on for 14 rounds, and at the end, Ali was the victor. In the late 1970s, everyone saw Ali’s career coming to an end.
He lost his last bout against Trevor Berbick which resulted him losing his heavyweight title; Ali announced his retirement the day after, with an overall professional record of 56-5, with 37 knockouts. After his boxing career, Ali devoted most of his retirement time to philanthropy. In 1984, he announced he had developed Parkinson’s disease, a neurological syndrome common to head traumas. Ali has made a significant amount of difference to countries all over the world. In 1998, Ali was chosen to be a ‘United Nations Messenger of Peace’ because of his connection between international countries.
In 2005, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. The same year, a centre was opened named after him in his home town with the saying, “I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given,”. “I believed in myself and I believe in the goodness of others” – Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali, once again, is not only dubbed as one of the greatest boxers but also one of the greatest entertainers of all times. Ali was even awarded in 1999, crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated, and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC.
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