Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr was an American professional boxer and activist. He is widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century. From early in his career, Ali was known as an inspiring, controversial, and polarizing figure both inside and outside the ring.
Cassius Clay was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky and began training as amateur boxer when he was 12 years old. At age 18, he won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and turned professional later that year. At age 22 in 1964, he won the WBA, WBC and lineal heavyweight titles from Sonny Liston in a big upset. Clay then converted to Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay, which he called his „slave name“, to Muhammad Ali. He set an example of racial pride for African Americans and resistance to white domination during the Civil Rights Movement.
„Nicknamed „The Greatest“, he was involved in several historic boxing matches.“
In 1966, Ali further antagonized the white establishment by refusing to be drafted into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War. He was eventually arrested, found guilty of draft evasion charges, and stripped of his boxing titles. He successfully appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned his conviction in 1971, by which time he had not fought for nearly four years and thereby lost a period of peak performance as an athlete. Ali’s actions as a conscientious objector to the war made him an icon for the larger counterculture generation.
Ali is regarded as one of the leading heavyweight boxers of the 20th century. He remains the only three-time lineal heavyweight champion, having won the title in 1964, 1974, and 1978. Between February 25 and September 19, 1964, Ali reigned as the undisputedheavyweight champion. He is the only boxer to be named The Ring magazine fighter of the year six times. He was ranked as the greatest athlete of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated , the Sports Personality of the Century by the BBC, and the third greatest athlete of the 20th century by ESPN SportsCentury. Nicknamed „The Greatest“, he was involved in several historic boxing matches.
At a time when most fighters let their managers do the talking, Ali thrived in and indeed craved the spotlight, where he was often provocative and outlandish. He was known for trash talking, and often freestyled with rhyme schemes and spoken word poetry.
As a Muslim, Ali was initially affiliated with Elijiah Muhammad´s Nation of Islam (NOI) and advocated their black separatist ideology. He later disavowed the NOI, adhering to Sunni Islam, practicing Sufism and supporting racial integration, like his former mentor Malcom X.
After retiring from boxing at age 39 in 1981, Ali devoted his life to religious and charitable work. In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson, which his doctors attributed to boxing-related brain injuries. As his condition worsened, Ali made limited public appearances and was cared for by his family until his death on June 3, 2016, in Scottsdale, Arizona.