Charismatic, loquacious, brash, incredibly gifted, the heart of a lion. Above all, the greatest boxer that ever stepped into the ring to many – Muhammmed Ali is gone
Ali the boxing legend and possibly the greatest ever is dead, aged 74
He died of complications from the Parkinson’s syndrome he has battled for the last 30 years
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in Louisville, Ky., Ali won a gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, and not even four years later, achieved one of the greatest upsets in the annals of boxing with a seventh-round knockout of reigning heavyweight champion, Sonny Liston, at the Miami Convention Center, catapulting the 22-year-old Ali into a spotlight that would endure for a half-century, making him an endlessly compelling figure whose life would be dissected and examined in an abundance of books and films, most recently in the documentary, “I Am Ali,” which was released earlier this month.
The young Cassis Clay Winning the 1960 Olympic Light Heavy gold medal
Baiting the much feared Sony Liston into giving him a title fight and beating the ‘bear’ hands down
Pulling off a victory many thought ‘impossible’ against George Foreman in Kinshasha
In the end it was Parkinson’s syndrome that laid low the great man.
The young seeker who had just found a ‘Home’ in the Black Muslim community
It was Ali’s Islamic faith, of course, that was behind his refusal to be inducted into the U.S. Army to fight in Vietnam, a stand he took in 1967 that made him either a craven fraud or an outsized hero, depending on one’s point of view. Either way, the upshot was that Ali became arguably the most controversial athlete in the annals of American sport – and was stripped of his heavyweight championship and exiled from boxing for three years in his athletic prime, leaving him on the brink of financial ruin.
Ali was ready to go to jail rather than fight the vietcong
Gradually, as the tide public sentiment turned against the war, Ali increasingly came to be viewed as a paragon of moral courage, even as he outlined his position in vintage Ali syntax.
“I ain’t got no quarrel with no Vietcong,” he said.
“He had more lives than a cat,” said Howard Bingham, Ali’s friend and long-time photographer. “A cat has nine lives, but Ali had controversy after controversy after controversy and he always rose over it. People ask me why he was so loved. People would come up and say to him, ‘Ali, I used to hate you, but now I love you.’ He never lied to the public. He did things because it was the right thing for him. He didn’t care about the money.”
Beyond debate is that Muhammad Ali would evolve into as compelling and outrageously charismatic athlete of his or any time. Who else would write and recite poetry such as this, as Ali – then Clay – did before the first Liston fight?
The trio that would give the world the famous trilogy of heavy weight fights: Muhamad Ali, Don King and Joe Frazier