Muhammad Ali was an American professional boxer, generally considered the greatest heavyweight in the history of the sport. Let’ see some interesting facts and trivia about the legend!
1.He was one of the most recognized sports figures of the past 100 years, crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC
2. Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky.
3. The older of two boys, he was named for his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr., who himself was named in honor of the 19th century abolitionist and politician of the same name.
4. Clay’s paternal grandparents were John Clay and Sallie Anne Clay; Clay’s sister Eva quoted that Sallie was a native of Madagascar.
5. Although Cassius Sr. was a Methodist, he allowed Odessa to bring up both Cassius and his younger brother Rudolph “Rudy” Clay (later renamed Rahman Ali) as Baptists.
6. He was a descendant of pre-Civil War era American slaves in the American South, and was predominantly of African-American descent, with Irish and English heritage.
7. He was first directed toward boxing by Louisville police officer and boxing coach Joe E. Martin, who encountered the 12-year-old fuming over a thief taking his bicycle. He told the officer he was going to “whup” the thief. The officer told him he better learn how to box first.
8. Clay won six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union National Title, and the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.
9. Clay’s amateur record was 100 wins with five losses. Ali claimed in his 1975 autobiography that shortly after his return from the Rome Olympics he threw his gold medal into the Ohio River after he and a friend were refused service at a “whites-only” restaurant and fought with a white gang.
10. Cay became at age 22 the youngest boxer to take the title from a reigning heavyweight champion, though Floyd Patterson was the youngest to win the heavyweight championship at 21, during an elimination bout following Rocky Marciano’s retirement. Mike Tyson broke both records in 1986 when he defeated Trevor Berbick to win the heavyweight title at age 20.
11. Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali upon converting to Islam and affiliating with the Nation of Islam.
12. Muhammad Ali defended his title against former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson on November 22, 1965. Before the match, Ali mocked Patterson, who was widely known to call him by his former name Cassius Clay, as an “Uncle Tom”, calling him “The Rabbit”. Although Ali clearly had the better of Patterson, who appeared injured during the fight, the match lasted 12 rounds before being called on a technical knockout. Patterson later said he had strained his sacroiliac. Ali was criticized in the sports media for appearing to have toyed with Patterson during the fight
13. Muhammad Ali refused to be inducted into the armed forces, stating publicly, “No Vietcong ever called me nigger”.
14. He was systematically denied a boxing license in every state and stripped of his passport. As a result, he did not fight from March 1967 to October 1970—from ages 25 to almost 29—as his case worked its way through the appeal process. In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction in a unanimous 8-0 ruling (Thurgood Marshall abstained from the case).
15. On August 12, 1970, with his case still in appeal, Ali was granted a license to box by the City of Atlanta Athletic Commission, thanks to State Senator Leroy R. Johnson.
16. Muhammad Ali and Frazier’s first fight, held at the Garden on March 8, 1971, was nicknamed the “Fight of the Century”, due to the tremendous excitement surrounding a bout between two undefeated fighters, each with a legitimate claim as heavyweight champions. Veteran boxing writer John Condon called it “the greatest event I’ve ever worked on in my life”. The bout was broadcast to 35 foreign countries; promoters granted 760 press passes.
17. After the loss to Frazier, Ali fought Jerry Quarry, had a second bout with Floyd Patterson and faced Bob Foster in 1972, winning a total of six fights that year. In 1973, Ken Norton broke Ali’s jaw while giving him the second loss of his career. After initially seeking retirement, Ali won a controversial decision against Norton in their second bout, leading to a rematch at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 1974, with Joe Frazier—who had recently lost his title to George Foreman.
18. The defeat of Frazier set the stage for a title fight against heavyweight champion George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire, on October 30, 1974—a bout nicknamed “The Rumble in the Jungle” but Ali won!
19. In reflecting on the fight, George Foreman later said: “I’ll admit it. Muhammad outthought me and outfought me”.
20. Following this win, on July 27, 1979, Ali announced his retirement from boxing. His retirement was short-lived, however; Ali announced his comeback to face Larry Holmes for the WBC belt in an attempt to win the heavyweight championship an unprecedented fourth time. The fight was largely motivated by Ali’s need for money. Boxing writer Richie Giachetti said, “Larry didn’t want to fight Ali. He knew Ali had nothing left; he knew it would be a horror.”
21. It was around this time that Ali started struggling with vocal stutters and trembling hands.The fight took place on October 2, 1980, in Las Vegas, with Holmes easily dominating Ali, who was weakened from thyroid medication he had taken to lose weight.
22. Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome in 1984, a disease that commonly results from head trauma from activities such as boxing
23. Muhammad Ali was married four times and had seven daughters and two sons. Ali met his first wife, cocktail waitress Sonji Roi, approximately one month before they married on August 14, 1964.
24. On August 17, 1967, Ali married Belinda Boyd. After the wedding, she, like Ali, converted to Islam. She changed her name to Khalilah Ali, though she was still called Belinda by old friends and family. They had four children: Maryum (born 1968), twins Jamillah and Rasheda (born 1970), and Muhammad Ali, Jr. (born 1972). Maryum has a career as an author and rapper.
25. Muhammad Ali said that he first heard of the Nation of Islam (NOI) when he was fighting in the Golden Gloves tournament in Chicago in 1959, and attended his first NOI meeting in 1961. He continued to attend meetings, although keeping his involvement hidden from the public.
26. In 1962, Clay met Malcolm X, who soon became his spiritual and political mentor, and by the time of the first Liston fight NOI members, including Malcolm X, were visible in his entourage. This led to a story in The Miami Herald just before the fight disclosing that Clay had joined the Nation, which nearly caused the bout to be canceled.
27. In fact, Clay was initially refused entry to the Nation of Islam (often called the Black Muslims at the time) due to his boxing career. However, after he won the championship from Liston in 1964, the Nation of Islam was more receptive and agreed to recruit him as a member.
28. Ali inspired Martin Luther King, Jr., who had been reluctant to address the Vietnam War for fear of alienating the Johnson Administration and its support of the civil rights agenda. Now, King began to voice his own opposition to the war for the first time.
29. Muhammad Ali’s resistance to the draft was covered in the 2013 documentary The Trials of Muhammad Ali
30. Muhammad Ali had a highly unorthodox boxing style for a heavyweight, epitomized by his catchphrase “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee“. Never an overpowering puncher, Ali relied early in his career on his superior hand speed, superb reflexes and constant movement, dancing and circling opponents for most of the fight, holding his hands low and lashing out with a quick, cutting left jab that he threw from unpredictable angles. His footwork was so strong that it was extremely difficult for opponents to cut down the ring and corner Ali against the ropes.
31. Using a synchronizer, Jimmy Jacobs, who co-managed Mike Tyson, measured young Ali’s punching speed versus Sugar Ray Robinson, a welter/middleweight, often considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in history. Ali was 25% faster than Robinson, even though Ali was 45–50 pounds heavier.
32. Muhammad Ali’s early style was so unusual that he was initially discounted because he reminded boxing writers of a lightweight, and it was assumed he would be vulnerable to big hitters like Sonny Liston.
33. Floyd Patterson said, “It’s very hard to hit a moving target, and (Ali) moved all the time, with such grace, three minutes of every round for fifteen rounds. He never stopped. It was extraordinary”.
34. Muhammad Ali defeated every top heavyweight in his era, which has been called the golden age of heavyweight boxing.
35. Ali is generally considered one of the greatest heavyweights of all time by boxing commentators and historians. Ring Magazine, a prominent boxing magazine, named him number 1 in a 1998 ranking of greatest heavyweights from all eras.
36. Ali was named the second greatest fighter in boxing history by ESPN.com behind only welterweight and middleweight great Sugar Ray Robinson.
37. The Associated Press voted Ali the No. 1 heavyweight of the 20th century in 1999.
38. As a world champion boxer and social activist, Ali has been the subject of numerous books, films and other creative works.
39. Ali has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated on 37 different occasions, second only to Michael Jordan.
40. In 2015, Ali released his memoir The Greatest: My Own Story, which chronicles the battles he faced in and out of the ring. It was edited by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison.