Muhammad Ali – A Brief Biography (1942-2016)
Muhammad Ali was an American professional boxer, philanthropist, and activist, who is regarded as one of the most influential and significant figures of the 20th century.
Ali is widely considered and ranked as the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time, nicknamed The Greatest.
But what set Ali apart from all other athletes was not what he did inside the ring but what he did and stood for outside of it.
Muhammad Ali was born on 17th January 1942 in Lousiville, Kentucky. He was named Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.
His father, Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr., was a sign and billboard painter. And his mother, Odessa O’Grady Clay, worked as a domestic helper.
Even though Cassius Sr. was a methodist, he allowed Odessa to raise Ali and his younger brother Rudolph (later renamed Rahman Ali), as baptists.
Muhammad Ali attended Central High School in Louisville.
He was dyslexic and found it difficult to read and write in school.
When Ali was growing up, racial segregation was rampant. On one particular occasion, he was even denied a drink of water at a local store due to the color of his skin.
Such incidents deeply bothered and affected the young Ali. But the story that would impact him the most was the murder of the 14-year-old African-American boy named Emmett Till.
Till was lynched to death in Mississippi in 1955, after being accused of offending a white woman in her family’s grocery store. His killers were soon acquitted.
The incident provoked Ali and his friend to take out their anger and frustration by vandalizing a local rail yard.
Many years later, Ali remarked to his daughter Hana that nothing ever shook him up more than the story of Emmet Till.
Muhammad Ali was 12 years old when his new bicycle was stolen, leaving him hurt and furious.
Ali approached the Louisville police officer and boxing coach Joe E. Martin and told him about his stolen bicycle. Ali said that he would ‘whup’ the thief he found him.
Martin told Ali that if he wished to do that, he must learn to box first.
Ali did not pay much attention to Martin’s offer at first. But shortly thereafter, Ali saw amateur boxers on a local television boxing program called Tomorrow’s Champions and became interested in the prospect of boxing.
Ali went back to Martin and took him up on his offer. He began training under Fred Stoner, whom he credits with giving him the real training, molding his style, stamina, and system.
Muhammad Ali made his amateur boxing debut in 1954, aged 12, against a local amateur boxer named Ronnie O’Keefe.
Ali won by split decision and then eventually went on to win 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, aged 18.
Ali would later claim in his interviews and in his 1975 autobiography, that after returning from the Rome Olympics, he threw his gold medal in the Ohio River after he and his friend were refused to be served at a whites-only restaurant.
However, this story has been disputed by several of Ali’s close friends and aides, including Howard Bingham and Bundini Brown. Some say that he was refused service at the restaurant but lost his gold medal a year after he had won it.
During the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Ali was given a replacement medal.
Early Professional Career
On 29th October 1960, Muhammad Ali, aged 18, made his professional debut against Tunney Hunsaker. Ali won with a six-round decision.
From then on, Ali did not look back or slow down. Until the end of 1963, he had amassed a record of 19 wins, 15 of which were by knockout, and zero losses.
Ali defeated boxers such as Jim Robinson, LaMar F. Clark, Doug Jones, Henry Cooper, and his former trainer and veteran boxer Archie Moore in 1962.
For each of these fights, Ali resorted to his tactics of mental warfare by belittling, taunting, and insulting his opponents, while vaunting his own skills and abilities.
Ali’s trash-talking was inspired by professional wrestler Gorgeous George. He saw that George’s trash-talking ability attracted huge crowds to his events.
When Ali met George in Las Vegas in 1961, George told him that trash-talking would earn paying fans who would either want to see him lose or win.
Ali understood the benefit of this tactic, as a greater crowd meant a bigger paycheck for him. And so, Ali decided to transform himself into a self-described bigmouth and a bragger.
In 1960, Muhammad Ali left Archie Moore’s camp, partially due to his refusal to do chores such as sweeping, mopping, and washing clothes.
Ali then asked his idol Sugar Ray Robinson to be his manager. But Robinson refused.
The same year, Ali hired Angelo Dundee to be his trainer, with whom he would remain for the rest of his career.
Dundee traveled the world with Ali, being his cornerman in all but two of his fights, against Tunney Hunsaker in 1960 and Jimmy Ellis in 1971.
The Build-up to the Liston Fight
After defeating Doug Jones on 13th March 1963 (in what would be called the Fight of the Year), Muhammad Ali became the top contender for Sonny Liston’s heavyweight title.
Liston was a strong and intimidating personality with a criminal past. He was also said to have ties with the mob.
The odds were 7-1 against Ali, making him the underdog.
Liston’s victory against the former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson in two first-round knockouts made him the obvious favorite.
But in spite of all this, Ali taunted and trash-talked Liston during the pre-fight buildup, calling him ‘the big ugly bear’ and saying that Liston even smelled like a bear. Ali also said that once he would defeat Liston, he would donate Liston to the zoo.
Many analysts and viewers thought that Ali’s behavior and antics stemmed from fear.
Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston – I
The fight between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston was held on 25th February 1964 in Miami Beach, Florida.
During the fight, Liston seemed visibly angry and came out of his corner for a quick knockout. But Ali kept escaping Liston’s punches with his speed, agility, and mobility, making Liston look awkward.
Ali then began attacking Liston with his quick, accurate jabs, and in the third round hit Liston with a combination that buckled his knees and caused a cut under his left eye. It was the first time Liston had ever been cut or wounded during a fight.
At the end of the fourth round, Ali’s eyes began to burn, almost blinding him for the moment. It is speculated that Liston’s corner deliberately applied an ointment used for his cuts onto his gloves.
Ali fought the entire fifth round with his eyes burning terribly, making it impossible for him to attack. But Ali managed to dodge and escape Liston’s attempts to knock him out until sweat and tears rinsed the irritation from his eyes.
Ali came out in the sixth round and dominated Liston, hitting him repeatedly.
For the seventh round, Liston did not answer the bell. Ali was declared the winner by TKO.
Ali was only 22 years old, making him the youngest boxer to take the title from a reigning heavyweight champion.
Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam
Muhammad Ali first heard of the Nation of Islam when he was fighting in the Golden Gloves tournament in Chicago in 1959.
The Nation of Islam, a religious and political organization, was founded in the US by Wallace Fard Muhammad in 1930, in order to promote a form of Islam whose beliefs differed considerably from the mainstream Islamic traditions.
Ali attended the organization’s first meeting in 1961. From then on, he continued to attend their meetings regularly but kept his involvement hidden from the public.
In 1962, Ali met and befriended Malcolm X, who was a minister and spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Malcolm was an advocate of Black empowerment and promoted Islam within the black community, making him a popular figure during the Civil Rights Movement.
Ali and Malcolm immediately hit it off and Malcolm became Ali’s spiritual and political mentor. Malcolm also became a part of Ali’s regular entourage, leading the press to speculate that Ali had joined the Nation of Islam, which had almost caused his fight with Liston to be canceled.
Initially, Ali was refused entry into the Nation of Islam due to his boxing career. But after Ali won the Championship from Liston in 1964, the organization not only agreed to let him in but also publicized his membership.
On 6th March 1964, the leader of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad, gave a radio address stating that Ali, who was then named Cassius Clay, would be renamed to Muhammad Ali.
The fact that Muhammad Ali had joined the Nation of Islam (often referred to at the time as Black Muslims) and changed his name to a Muslim one, could not be digested or tolerated by most Americans.
The ensuing uproar and controversy were great.
Most journalists, excluding Howard Cosell, refused to call Ali by his new Muslim name.
But Ali insisted on being called by his new name, stating that Cassius Clay was a slave name, a white man’s name that he did not choose or want.
Ali’s change in faith and membership with the Nation of Islam made him an open target for public and media condemnation. White Americans in general, and even several African-Americans, were against the Nation of Islam, viewing the organization and its members as black separatists who spread hate, terror, and violence.
Following the organization’s doctrine, Ali openly spoke against the Vietnam War, saying that his enemy was the white people, not the Viet Cong, or the Chinese, or the Japanese. He also publicly condemned integration, stating that it was wrong and that they did not want to live with the white man.
Ali’s views gained harsh criticism and opposition from the American public. His popularity declined and many who had supported him initially were now against him.
But that did not stop Ali from expressing his views boldly and proudly. He was no longer afraid to stand up to the white establishment.
Barely two weeks after Ali joined the Nation of Islam, his friendship with Malcolm X came to an end after Malcolm left the organization due to disagreements with Elijah Muhammad.
Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston – II
On 25th May 1965, Muhammad Ali faced Sonny Liston for the second time in a rematch held in Lewiston, Maine.
The fight was initially supposed to take place in Boston the previous November but had to be postponed for six months due to Ali’s emergency surgery for a hernia just three days before the fight.
The much-anticipated fight turned out to be anti-climatic and controversial.
Midway through the first round, Liston was knocked by a punch of Ali’s that could barely be seen as it was so quick. The press would later dub it a ‘phantom punch’.
Once Liston went down, the referee did not begin the count immediately as Ali refused to retreat to a neutral corner.
Liston got up after twenty seconds and the fight resumed for a few moments before the referee was informed by the timekeepers that Liston had been down for a count of ten.
The referee immediately stopped the match and declared Ali the winner by knockout.
The fight had barely lasted for two minutes.
The nature of the fight led to several speculations and controversies. Many speculated that Liston purposely fell to the ground due to various reasons, such as he had bet against himself, that he had received threats on his life from the Nation of Islam, or that he intentionally fell to pay off debts.
However, slow-motion replays show that Liston was hit by a swift right from Ali, which led him to go down.
Muhammad Ali vs Floyd Patterson
Muhammad Ali fought former heavyweight champion, Floyd Patterson, on 22nd November 1965.
Before the fight, both men verbally provoked and taunted each other in order to build the fight. Patterson insisted on calling Ali by his former name, which irritated and angered Ali. And Ali, on the other hand, called Patterson The Rabbit and referred to him as Uncle Tom.
Patterson’s biographer W.K. Stratton later claimed that the animosity between the two fighters was staged in order to increase ticket sales and the closed-circuit viewing audience.
Ali dominated a visibly injured and struggling Patterson for twelve rounds, eventually winning by TKO.
Ali was criticized in the media for toying with an injured Patterson during the fight. But in an interview with Howard Cosell, Ali explained that he was refraining from knocking out Patterson because he was injured.
Cancellation of the Fight with Terrell
Muhammad Ali was scheduled to fight then-WBA Heavyweight Champion Ernie Terrel on 29th March 1966.
The WBA was one of two boxing associations that had stripped Ali of his title after he had joined the Nation of Islam.
In February of that year, Ali was reclassified by the Louisville draft board as 1-A from 1-Y. Ali publicly stated that he would refuse to serve in the Army as he had nothing against the Viet Cong as they had never called him a nigger or ill-treated him.
Ali’s stance resulted in a great public and media outcry, which led the Illinois Athletic Commission to refuse to sanction the fight citing technicalities.
After his fight with Ernie Terrell was canceled, Muhammad Ali traveled to Canada and Europe, winning championship bouts against George Chuvlo, Henry Cooper, Brian London, and Karl Mildenberger.
Ali then returned to the US and fought Cleveland Williams in the Houston Astrodome on 14th November 1966. The fight attracted a record-breaking indoor crowd of 35,460 people.
Ali dominated the fight and won a third-round TKO. His performance was considered the finest one of his career.
Muhammad Ali vs Ernie Terrell
The fight between Muhammad Ali and Ernie Terrell was finally scheduled to be held on 6th February 1967 in Houston.
Terrell was billed as Ali’s toughest opponent since Liston. He had defeated many of the boxers Ali had faced and was unbeaten in five years. He also had a three-inch reach advantage over Ali.
In the lead-up to the fight, Terrell insisted on calling Ali by his former name, which infuriated Ali. They even almost fought with each other over the issue in a pre-fight interview with Howard Cosell.
Ali wanted to humiliate Terrell during the fight.
It was a close fight until the sixth round. But in the seventh round, Ali bloodied Terrell and almost knocked him out. Terrell was shaken.
From the eighth round onward, Ali began taunting Terrell by hitting him with jabs and shouting between punches, ‘What’s my name, Uncle Tom? What’s my name?”
Ali won a unanimous fifteen-round decision. But critics described the fight as one of the ugliest boxing fights. They thought Ali had shown much arrogance and cruelty by his intent to prolong the fight to inflict maximum punishment.
Resisting the Draft
In 1964, Muhammad Ali, aged 22, had been classified as Class 1-Y (fit for service only in times of national emergency) after failing the US Armed Forces qualifying test because his writing and spelling skills were sub-standard due to his dyslexia.
But by early 1966, the army lowered its standards, allowing in soldiers above the 15 percentile. Hence, Ali was reclassified as 1-A. This meant that he was now eligible for the draft at a time when the US was heavily involved in the Vietnam War.
When he was notified of this, Ali publicly declared that he would refuse to serve in the Army, stating that War was against the teachings of the Quran, unless it was declared by Allah or The Messenger Elijah Muhammad.
Ali considered himself a conscientious objector. And on 28th April 1967, on the day of his induction in Houston, he refused thrice to step forward when his name was called out.
Ali’s stance put him further at odds with the white establishment. He soon became the most hated man in the country.
Consequences of Resisting the Draft
Upon refusing to be inducted, Muhammad Ali began receiving several death threats. People who supported Ali were threatened as well.
But Ali’s actions had another more significant and vital impact. He inspired many black Americans and even whites to question, condemn, and refuse the Vietnam War. Demonstrations and protests against the war became widespread across the country.
Ali suddenly became a central figure in the Civil Rights Movement. Prominent and important figures of the movement came to acknowledge his energizing effect on the movement.
Ali had sacrificed everything for a just cause. He had put his career, money, and fame on the line, knowing well he could end up in jail. These sacrifices gave legitimacy to the movement and to his stance, inspiring young people across color lines.
He was eventually denied a boxing license in every state and stripped of his passport. On 20th June 1967, he was convicted of draft evasion and sentenced to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Ali paid a bond and managed to remain free while the verdict was being appealed.
Time in Exile
After Muhammad Ali was banned from boxing, he turned his attention and energies to public speaking.
He spoke at colleges across the nation, openly criticizing the Vietnam War and advocating African-American pride and unity, and racial justice. He highlighted and spoke against racism.
Even though Ali was widely condemned by the American media, his popularity drastically increased among young blacks and whites. His stance gained more and more sympathy and popularity among the younger generation, who were willing and unafraid to question the government.
As a result of his ban, Ali was unable to fight for over three years, from 1967 to 1970, while his case worked its way through the appeals process.
Ali was denied his prime boxing years. But he had gained something much more important, which was the respect of the younger generation.
Return to Boxing
On 11th August 1970, Muhammad Ali was granted a license to box by the City of Atlanta Athletic Commission, while his case was still in appeal.
Ali was scheduled to fight Jerry Quarry on 26th October. The fight was organized by the company, House of Sports, which was set up by African-American civil rights activist Jesse Hill Jr., African-American politician Leroy Johnson, and Harry Pett, by using their local political influence.
Ali won the fight after three rounds after Quarry suffered a cut.
During this period, Ali’s case had an important win in the federal court, forcing the New York State Boxing Commission to reinstate his license.
In December 1970, Ali fought and won against Oscar Bonavena at Madison Square Garden.
With these comeback victories, Ali had suddenly become the top contender for the heavyweight title held by the reigning champion Joe Frazier.
The Build-up to the Frazier Fight
The first fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, which was dubbed the Fight of the Century, was scheduled for 8th March 1971 at Madison Square Garden.
Both the fighters were undefeated and both had a legitimate claim to the heavyweight title.
There was great excitement and hype around the fight, attracting unprecedented media attention and publicity.
To make matters more interesting, the pre-fight antics by both fighters garnered a lot of attention. Frazier called Ali by his former name, while Ali said that Frazier was too ugly and dumb to be the champion, and called him an Uncle Tom.
Ali portrayed himself as the fighter of his people, the people’s champ, saying that he represented the little man in the ghetto, while Frazier represented white people in suits, members of the Klu Klux Klan, and Alabama sheriffs.
In order to prepare for the fight, Ali found a five-acre site on a Pennsylvania country road in the village of Deer Lake, where he set up his training camp for the fight. He liked the country setting of the camp and would go on to train there for all of his fights until the end of his career.
Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier – I
The fight lived up to its hype and expectations.
It started out even in the early rounds. Joe Frazier constantly pressured Muhammad Ali, crouching, bobbing, weaving, and relentlessly attacking Ali’s body. Ali, on the other hand, regularly hit Frazier with his quick jabs and combinations.
Ali was taking more hits and punishment than he ever had before. In the later rounds, Ali began leaning on the ropes, allowing Frazier to hit him and tire himself out.
In the eleventh round, Frazier’s left hook shook and wobbled Ali, forcing him to stagger backward across the ring.
In the last round, Frazier connected another dangerous left hook that knocked Ali down. But Ali got back up on his feet in three seconds.
Ali lost the fight by unanimous decision, making it his first professional defeat.
Fights After Losing to Frazier
After losing to Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali went on to fight Jerry Quarry, Floyd Patterson, and Bob Foster. He won six fights in 1972.
On 31st March 1973, Ali fought, lost, and broke his jaw against Ken Norton. It was the second professional loss of his career.
On 10th September 1973, Ali fought Norton for the second time. The highly anticipated match was held at the Forum, California.
The fight was close but Ali won by a split decision. He had demonstrated the physical stamina of his early days.
Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier – II
The second fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier took place on 28th January 1974 at Madison Square Garden.
Frazier had recently lost his heavyweight title to George Foreman.
Ali started out strong in the early rounds, even staggering Frazier in the second round. But in the middle rounds, Frazier gained composure and snapped Ali’s head in round seven.
In the last four rounds, the fight shifted round to round in each fighter’s momentum. Ali managed to stay away and avoid Frazier’s deadly left hook for the rest of the fight and tried to tire him out by tying him up when he was cornered.
Ali was declared the winner by a unanimous decision.
Once again, he became the top contender for the heavyweight title held by George Foreman.
The Build-up to the Rumble in the Jungle
Muhammad Ali and George Foreman were scheduled to fight on 30th October 1974 in Kinshasa, Zaire.
The fight was dubbed The Rumble in the Jungle.
Ali was 32 years old and had lost his reflexes and speed. Foreman, on the other hand, was considered one of the hardest punchers in heavyweight history. He had defeated Frazier and Norton, both of whom had given Ali a tough fight, in second-round knockouts, with great ease.
Naturally, critics, analysts, and viewers predicted an easy victory for Foreman. Not even Ali’s long-time supporter and friend Howard Cosell gave him a chance of winning.
Ali, as usual, was highly confident of his victory. He continued with his pre-fight trash-talking and theatrics, calling Foreman the mummy and making poems about him.
In spite of the odds being against him, Ali had one important factor going in his favor. He became widely popular among the people of Zaire, becoming their favorite fighter between the two. Wherever he went, he was surrounded by crowds that constantly chanted, “Ali, boma ye!” (“Ali, kill him!”)
Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman
Muhammad Ali began the fight by moving and scoring with right crosses to Foreman’s head.
But from the second onward, Foreman began attacking Ali with his powerful punches. Ali retreated to the ropes, inviting Foreman to continue hitting him while covering up, clinching, and counter-punching.
While Ali did this, he continued with his mental warfare tactics, verbally taunting and teasing Foreman.
Ali’s technique of retreating to the ropes and allowing Foreman to keep striking him went against all conventional boxing wisdom. The move was later dubbed the Rope-a-dope.
Ali’s continuous trash-talking angered and distracted Foreman, provoking him to keep throwing punches which were tiring him out.
Midway through the fight, Foreman became visibly tired. His punches became less accurate and less powerful.
Ali began taking advantage of Foreman’s state, countering more frequently with swift and accurate punches, flurries, and combinations.
In the eighth round, Foreman, utterly exhausted, fell to the floor after being hit with a combination by Ali.
The crowd erupted with excitement. Foreman failed to make the count.
Ali had once again regained the heavyweight title against all odds.
The fight is regarded as one of the greatest fights in boxing history and was the world’s most-watched live television broadcast at the time, attracting an estimated one billion viewers worldwide.
Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier – III
The third fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier was scheduled to be held on 1st October 1975 in Manila, Philippines.
The fight was dubbed the Thrilla in Manila and it attracted worldwide attention and publicity. This would be the deciding fight between the two great fighters.
In the early rounds of the fight, Ali was aggressive, moving about and frequently exchanging blows with Frazier. But in the middle rounds, Ali began to tire. He quickly adopted the Rope-a-dope strategy and resorted to clinching.
Frazier continued to attack Ali relentlessly but Ali managed to do some effective counter-punching.
From the 12th round onward, Frazier began to tire out, allowing Ali to hit him with several blows that closed his left eye and opened a cut over his right eye. Ali took advantage of this and dominated the 13th and 14th rounds.
For the 15th and final round, Frazier’s trainer refused to allow Frazier to answer the bell despite Frazier’s protests. Both his eyes were swollen shut by now.
The fight was stopped and Ali was declared the winner by TKO. But Ali could not celebrate much. He sat on the stool in his corner, visibly tired and exhausted.
After this fight, Ali gained even more respect for Joe Frazier. He even said that Frazier was the greatest fighter of all time next to him.
The fight took a toll on Ali. He remarked that it was the closest thing to dying that he had experienced. He even refused to watch the fight on tape, referring to it as hell.
After the fight, for the first time, Ali seriously considered retirement.
Muhammad Ali vs Ken Norton – III
Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton met for their third and final fight on 28th September 1976 at Yankee Stadium, New York.
This time Ali entered the ring as the heavyweight champion. Although neither fighter was able to dominate or establish themselves as the obvious winner, most commentators and viewers gave the fight to Norton.
However, Ali was declared the winner by unanimous decision, a result which was contested and booed by the audience. All statistics pointed toward Norton’s victory.
Ali himself admitted that Norton deserved to win the fight.
Retirement and Comeback
During this period, Ali had a fallout with the Nation of Islam and converted to Sunni Islam.
He announced his retirement after the Norton fight in order to practice his faith.
However, in May 1977, Ali returned to defeat Alfredo Evangelista.
In September of that year, Ali fought a difficult bout against Earnie Shivers. Though he won by unanimous decision, Ali had struggled, compelling his long-time doctor to ask him to retire.
Ali’s doctor, Ferdie Pacheco, had received a report from the New York State Athletic Commission which showed that Ali’s kidneys were falling apart. Pacheco wrote to Ali, his wife, and Angelo Dundee, but got no response. That was when Pacheco decided to quit.
Losing and Regaining the Title
On 15th February 1978, Muhammad Ali fought and lost against Leon Spinx at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas.
Spinx became the undisputed heavyweight champion after his victory. At the time, he had only eight professional fights to his credit and was the underdog against Ali.
Ali himself had not prepared enough for the fight. He had not trained seriously, sparring less than 24 rounds in preparation for the fight. And he was visibly out of shape.
Spinx won by split decision, thereby becoming the only fighter ever to take a world title away from Ali in the ring.
A rematch between Ali and Spinx took place on 15th September 1978 at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The fight was attended by 70,000 people, paying a total of $6 million in admissions. It became the largest live gate in boxing history at the time.
Ali won the fight by unanimous decision, making him the first heavyweight champion to win the belt three times.
Muhammad Ali vs Larry Holmes
On 27th July 1979, Muhammad Ali announced his retirement from boxing once again. However, this one too did not last long.
Ali returned to fight Larry Holmes for the WBC belt. He wished to win the heavyweight championship for an unprecedented fourth time. Many believe that Ali most probably wanted to fight for monetary reasons.
But Holmes did not want to fight Ali as he knew that Ali was no longer the same. Ali had begun to stutter and slur his words, and his hands trembled, all of which were signs of the start of Parkinson’s syndrome.
The fight took place on 2nd October 1980 in Las Vegas Valley. Holmes dominated Ali with ease, while Ali kept taking the punishment, looking helpless.
After the 10th round, Angelo Dundee asked the referee to stop the fight. It was the only time Ali had lost through stoppage.
Ali’s Last Fight
On 11th December 1981, Muhammad Ali fought in his last boxing match against Jamaican boxer Trevor Berbick in Nassau, Bahamas.
Ali lost a 10-round decision.
After the fight with Berbick, Ali retired from boxing for good.
Life After Retirement
In 1984, Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome, which was the result of the hittings and punishment he took over the course of his boxing career.
After retirement, Ali immersed himself in activism, philanthropy, and humanitarian work. he believed in practicing his Islamic duty of charity and committing good deeds toward others.
Ali donated millions to charity, helping the suffering and disadvantaged people from all religious backgrounds. It is estimated that Ali helped to feed more than 22 million people suffering from poverty and hunger across the world.
Ali was also a strong advocate for education. He preached the importance of education in the speeches and interviews he gave in colleges, universities, and TV shows.
Even before he retired, he was an active philanthropist, donating money to various causes. In 1967, he had become the largest single black donor to the United Negro College Fund.
He visited Africa and the Palestinian refugee camp in Southern Lebanon, where he pledged his support for the Palestinian struggle to liberate their homeland.
In 1978, he traveled to Bangladesh, where he received honorary citizenship. He also took part in a protest march in the US, along with Marlon Brando and Stevie Wonder, in support of Native American rights.
In 1985, Ali visited Israel to request the release of Muslim prisoners at the Atlit detainee camp. But Israel refused to do so.
In 1988, Ali visited Sudan in order to raise awareness about the plight of famine victims. In 1990, he visited Iraq to meet Saddam Hussein, to negotiate the release of American hostages, a task in which he was successful.
In 1994, Ali campaigned to the US Government to aid the refugees afflicted by the Rwandan genocide.
Muhammad Ali’s fight with Parkinson’s syndrome led to a gradual decline in his health.
By 2012, Ali could no longer stand on his own and spoke with great difficulty.
On 2nd June 2016, Ali was hospitalized in Scottsdale, Arizona with a respiratory illness. His condition was grave. The next day, Ali, aged 74, passed away from septic shock.
Following his death, Ali became the No. 1 trending topic on Facebook and Twitter. Documentaries and other coverages based on his life were played by networks.
His death was mourned globally. Celebrities, including athletes and politicians such as Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Michael Jordan, Floyd Mayweather, Tiger Woods, Mike Tyson, LeBron James, and many others.
On 10th June 2016, Ali’s funeral procession passed through the streets of Louisville, stopping at Cave Hill Cemetery, where he was interred during a private ceremony.
The pallbearers included Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, and Will Smith, with honorary pallbearers including George Foreman, George Chuvalo, and Larry Holmes.
Ali’s memorial was watched by an estimated 1 billion viewers across the world.
Muhammad Ali is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential men of the 20th century.
He is also generally considered by critics, boxers, and the public, as the greatest boxer of all time.
Ali is the only boxer to be named The Ring magazine Fighter of the Year six times. He was involved in more Ring Fight of the Year bouts than any other fighter.
Ali’s boxing career speaks for itself. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in its first year and held wins over seven other Hall of Fame inductees in an era often referred to as the golden age of heavyweight boxing.
Ali’s records of beating 21 boxers for the world heavyweight title and winning 14 unified title bouts stood for 35 years.
In 1990, Life Magazine named Ali as one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century.
Ali received many other awards and accolades during and after his career. He was named Sportsman of the Century by Sports Illustrated and Sports Personality of the Century by BBC. He was also named Athlete of the Century by USA Today and ranked as the 3rd greatest athlete of the 20th century by ESPN SportsCentury.
During his lifetime, Ali became one of the most famous human beings on the planet. He became a popular culture icon, inspiring several books, music, films, TV shows, video games, documentaries, etc.
He also inspired athletes across various sports, such as Pele, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, and countless others, not to mention almost every athlete participating in combat sports.
He was also a hero to the great Nelson Mandela himself.
Ali was a rare human being and a rare athlete. He was one of the very few figures who stood for and represented something more significant and important than themselves and their field of operation.
Ali was much more than an athlete. He was much more than just a boxer. He stood for peace, love, justice, equality, and brotherhood.
He stood for humanity.
He is perhaps more revered and admired now for what he did outside the ring than inside of it.
Muhammad Ali belonged to the world.