Mohamed Ali : One of the greatest boxers in the history of sports

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., in the year 1942, American boxer Mohamed Ali is considered, one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport. Graceful footwork and powerful jabs marked Ali' s style.  

Clay was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He took to boxing at the age of twelve and has an interesting tale behind it. It is said that when Clay was twelve, his bicycle was stolen. A police officer suggested to him to learn boxing, perhaps in order to be better equipped to handle unwanted people, and Clay took him seriously. So seriously that by the time he was eighteen, Clay had blazed a record of 108 wins and only eight losses in amateur contests.

An Olympian record indeed and it included six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, the 1959 International Golden Gloves heavyweight title, and a gold medal as the light heavyweight champion at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Italy.  

The Greatest

After capping the Olympics gold, Clay became a professional boxer. His victory trails continued even in this new role, with Clay having recorded 19 professional wins within the next four years. That was when he earned a chance to take on the then heavyweight champion, Sonny Liston. Clay, who was twenty-two then was considered an underdog, vowed that he would knock Liston out in the eighth round. As it turned out, he did so in even shorter time and was crowned the world heavyweight champion. He lost no time in declaring himself the greatest.  

In 1965, he defended his title in another encounter against Liston. The bout lasted only 2 minutes 12 seconds. During the first round Ali caught Liston with a hard blow, so quick that it was dubbed the "phantom punch" because few fans saw it. Clay, who had by now become Mohamed Ali after he converted to Islam, defended his title five more times before 1967. In 1978 Ali became the first boxer to win the world heavyweight championship title three different times.

A blunt outspoken person, Ali frequently found himself in the midst of many a controversy. During the Vietnam War, Ali refused to be inducted into the United States Army on the grounds that he was a black Muslim minister and therefore a conscientious objector against the war. He was accused of draft evasion, convicted and stripped of his heavyweight title. He was also banned from fighting in the United States. He filed many appeals and was finally allowed to return in 1970. He took on Joe Frazier, who was then the world champion, but lost the fight.

However, in the year 1974, Frazier (who had by then lost his title) and Ali battled for twelve rounds at the Madison Square Garden in New York City. Finally Ali was declared winner; he had gained the right to challenge Foreman for the heavyweight title. He beat him and regained the lost world title. In the year 1975, Ali took on Frazier again, in Manila, Philippines. He defended his stand as winner at the end of the 15-round battle.

Ali defended his world title six times between 1976 and 1978, when he lost to Leon Spinks in Las Vegas. He retired from boxing the following year, emerged in 1980 to challenge the title holder Larry Holmes, lost to him and to another challenger Trevor Berbick in 1981 and then took off his gloves for good. When he retired, his professional record read 56 wins (37 by knockout) and 5 losses.

After retirement from the ring, Ali got involved in various charities and humanitarian missions around the world. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990, and in 1996 he was awarded the honour of lighting the Olympic torch in Atlanta, Georgia, to mark the beginning of the Summer Olympic Games. His rich life has been encapsulated in an autobiography, The Greatest: My Own Story, which appeared in the year 1975. Truly, Mohamed Ali was one of the greatest sportsmen of his times.