The names’ Ali, or once known as “The Greatest”. If you’re wondering about my name, it was Cassius Marcellus Clay but later I changed it to Muhammad Ali. Many boxers change their names only theirs were meant for a nick name, mine was based on my beliefs. I went from a slave name to a Muslim one, even though not everyone agreed with me, it really wasn’t their choice. I’ll get into that in a moment.
I was born in Louisville, Kylon on the 17th of January, 1942. As a youngster I had problems in school, because I was a skinny, awkward little twerp. I knew that I had to do something different, but I just didn’t know what. When I was about your age, I began my future career. Who would’ve thought that a stolen bike was the key to the beginning of my story? But it was, in 1954 in Louisville, Kentucky, I had my bike stolen. I was so upset. So when I found a cop in a gym, Joe Martin, I told him that I was going to “whup” whoever stole my bike. So the surprised Martin told me, “You better learn to box first.” I was a very determined, dedicated, and ambitious one, who by the way didn’t smoke or drink, and that many might have said was what made me better then others. The boxing was when it all started, it was the beginning of the adventure of my life. Within weeks, 89-pound me had a first win!
Now, I don’t want to share too much of my past, because to me present is more important. So to sum it all up, what set me apart from the other boys was two things: one, I was weak and two, I outworked all the other boys. For the next 27 years, I was in the ring. It was my dream to become the heavyweight champion of the world, little did I know that it would happen. As a teenager, I never worked, just boxed and trained. In the Mach 1958, I dropped out of high school, for winning the upcoming Olympics was more appealing to me then Central High’s tenth grade. Before my 18th Birthday, I won two Golden Glove Titles, two National AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) Titles, 6 Kentucky Golden Gloves, and was finally nationally recognized. When the 1960 Rome Olympic Game were coming around I was provided with an opportunity to represent my country, I went with Olympic team to Rome, and ended winning the gold medal. By that time I’d fought 103 amateur matches, and had only lost five. When I got back to Louisville, even with a medal around my neck, I was still discriminated against by the white society. That was when I decided to throw my Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River because if my anger about the racism in my hometown, know I think that was stupidity but then it just felt like the right thing to do. Anyway by the age of 22, I had a professional boxing record of 19-0. On February 25, 1964, I got a heavyweight title shot.
Oh, and sorry about the paper, I’m just not the best public speaker. Well, before the fight between me and this big champion named Sonny Liston, I predicted that he’d fall in the fourth round, but as I entered the ring I became very nervous. Going against Champ Sonny Liston, was the best thing that happened to me, it gave me confidence and courage, plus showed the world how my speed and movement won over an older champion. So I became the second youngest champion in history. After the fight, was when I told the world that my name was now Muhammad Ali and that I had joined the Nation of Islam. It put a great effect on my boxing career. As the champ I realized my popularity in society, and used to its power to speak for the Civil Rights. I became a political symbol of the black society, and maybe most influential beside Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, as many say. During the next three years, I had to defend myself and my title.
I felt very passionate about my Muslim beliefs. So when I was called up to contribute to the Armed Services, in 1967(as the Vietnam war was escalating), I refused. I refused because of religious beliefs, as I, in fact was a practicing Muslim minister. On April 28, 1967, the army for the induction of the military service to fight in the Vietnam War drafted me. I refused to step forward when they called my name, so I was immediately stripped of the heavyweight title, and got a five year sentence to serve in prison. I had no more fights in 1967, 1968, and 1969. I just felt that the war was silly and didn’t want to fight in the war that I didn’t believe in. Many thought that my decision gave me popularity, which was true, only it gave so much more hate that the popularity wasn’t recognized. Then my conviction was overturned, so in 1970 I made my first fight back and didn’t even lose a step on my skills. My reputation gave me a title shot against Joe Frazier, the fight was known as the fight of the century. That was when I suffered my first pro lose. In October 30, 1974, it was me vs. Forman (man known for the hardest punches in boxing history) a match that everyone had waited for. It was held in Zaire and it was nicknamed “the rumble in the jungle. Yet, it was I who ended up winning the fight by KO, and once again the heavyweight champ. I look back and feel happy for my accomplishments but at the time all I felt was pain! It was the third match between Joe Frazier and I, and it was going to be known as “The Thrilla In Manilla”. That was my hardest fight of my career. I then that I lost the title in 1978 against Leon Spinks, but got it back 8 months later.
Some envied my styles, my straight crisp punches, and not being hit. I was told that I “danced.” Because of my powerful legs, I literally floated in the ring. I invented the “Ali Shuffle;” a foot maneuver where I’d elevate himself, shuffle my feet in a blur, and sometimes deliver a blow while dancing. The third element that I brought to boxing was my mouth! I even became known as, “The Louisville Lip,” because I would never shut up. In a time when boxers never talked to the media, their managers always spoke for them, but I did all of my own talking. My techniques didn’t work for me after a while, I became older and my body didn’t work as well as it used to. For example, my legs slowed, and it all had to do with age. At first I lost a few matches to people, the younger me could’ve beaten with ease. Some people questioned me, asking if I would ever be the champion again? Basically, in the end I accepted that all fighter eventually have to except the idea of losing once in a while. So I announced my retirement on June 27, 1979, I think…me and my tired old brain. I left boxing with a professional record of; 56 wins and 5 loses. Now even though I now suffer from Parkinson’s disease, it doesn’t really matter to me. I still go on with my everyday life, and still do charity work.
I have three ex-wives and nine children (Maryum, Rasheeda, Jamillah, Hana, Laila, Khaliah, Miya, Muhammad Junior, and Asaad), and I am now married to the former Lonnie Williams of Louisville. Who I by the way, have known since her family moved across the street from my family when she was only six years old. I just wanted to say that in a magazine I once saw the words; “Ali has inspired millions worldwide. He gave people hope and proved that anyone could overcome insurmountable odds. He gave people courage, and made fighters of us all. This is Ali and never comes another”. Those words touched me, making me feel that my career was worthwhile to many. Thank you for that.
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