Muhammad Ali is a well known Hall of Fame boxer, social activist and philanthropist born on 17 January 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky with the birth name Cassius Marcellus Clay. Muhammad was brought up by his two parents: his father, Marcellus Clay and mother, Grady Odessa, who worked as a domestic worker (Edmonds 34). Growing up in a black middle class family, Ali had an interesting early life as a boy. He was known to have a big mouth everywhere he visited and also full of energy. He later had an amazing career, becoming a Golden Gloves champion in 1959 and won gold in 1960 Olympics as well winning all his bouts in 1960s. Despite contracting the dreadful disease, Parkinsonism, he has devoted a lot of his time to philanthropy after his retirement in 1981 (Down 9).
Ali’s career as a boxer officially began on October 1954, when he was 12 years old; this was triggered by the incident of his bike being stolen. He reported this to a police officer named Joe Martin who saw Cassius Clay’s competitiveness and ferociousness due to the threatening comments he made about how he would beat up whoever had stolen his bike. The Louisville police officer then persuaded Ali to join boxing where he would take out his anger instead of looking for his bike’s thief to beat him up. He trained him for a while before turning him over to Fred Stoner who was his main different trainer. Ali became very interested to become a boxer and he would train almost every day in a week. This enabled him to perform well in the amateur leagues he fought in and by the age of eighteen years he had won six of local championships in Kentucky Golden Gloves as well as two titles in the National Golden Title. His victories saw him represent the United States in 1960 Rome Summer Olympics where he won a Gold Medal against the tough Poland fighter Zbigniew Pietrzykowski (Down 12).
He was optimistic that the United States people would recognize of his achievement in the Olympics and be happy about him bringing home a gold medal only to return home to find out it was not anything as he had expected. A visit to a dinner store where a waitress informed him that he could not be served because he was black made him realize the gold medal did not mean anything since the black people were still segregated. Being furious with what had just happened he threw away his gold medal into Ohio River the same day and decided to work hard to help his black community gain equality (Edmonds 36). He then entered professional boxing where he was able to sigh a 50-50 split profitable contract with the wealthy Louisville Sponsoring Group. After two years in professional boxing, he felt he was ready to challenge the Title of the World Heavyweight champion and started to work harder at the sport to prepare for it. In February 25, 1964, he was able to beat Sonny Liston the person who at the time held the Title during the 7th round. At this time, he had gained enough fame as a boxer and also accomplished his goal as a heavyweight champion. Fans loved him and entertained reporters with his phrase “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” (Edmonds 39).
It was after this that he changed his name due to his conversion to Muslim religion to Muhammad Ali which he was introduced to by Malcolm X, a human rights activist. With his cocky and confident altitude, he defended his title for the next two years and remained the greatest to all other boxers until May the year 1976. Because of his Muslim beliefs, he refused to join the Vietnam War by inducting himself into United States military (Down 14). The heavyweight title was taken away from him and sentenced to a term of 5 years in prison but was released after three years following a successful appeal. In 1970, his career kicked off again by fighting Jerry Quarry and after his 31-0 record, Muhammad felt he once again had an opportunity to get back the stripped of title but in March 8, 1971 he lost his first fight to Joe Frazier. Nevertheless, he regained his title three years later by winning against George Foreman and won it the third time in September 15, 1978 against Spinks making him the only boxer to win the heavyweight crown three different times.
Muhammad retired in 1979 with a record of 56-3, only to return in 1980-1981 to boxing but lost his final two matches and officially retired in 1981 December (Edmonds 45). Late in his career, Muhammad Ali faced another test likely to affect him the part of his remaining life whereby he was diagnosed with symptoms of Parkinsonism disease in 1984. This is due to receiving blows to the head that were vicious, causing him memory loss, slurred speech, shakiness and walking difficulties (Edmonds 55). Despite this, he still engaged in a lot of charity work, such as raising money for the Muhammad Ali Foundation through making public appearances and has also created other group that assists in equipping Chicago residents with low incomes. Throughout his life, Muhammad Ali has managed to have big accomplishments as a boxer and a philanthropist and social activist (Edmonds 65).
Down, Susan Brophy. Muhammad Ali : The Greatest. St. Catharines, Ont: Crabtree Publishing, 2013. Discovery eBooks. 19-45.
Edmonds, Anthony O. Muhammad Ali : A Biography. Westport, Conn: ABC-CLIO, 2006. Discovery eBooks. Web. 34-65.