Muhammad Ali born 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 an 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 major 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.
1. Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title, had his passport revoked and faced a five-year prison term for refusing to serve in the U.S. Armed Services at the height of the Vietnam War. “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong,” he said. “They never called me n****r.”
2. Muhammad Ali once spoke at a KKK rally where he stated that Nation Of Islam, and he himself, also shared their ideals on racial segregation.
3. Muhammad Ali was invited to North Korea in 1995 with a collection of other athletes.
Though he didn’t speak much during the visit, at one function, as officials claimed they could take out the US or Japan whenever they wanted to, Ali declared loudly “no wonder we hate these motherfuckers.”
4. In 1990 Muhammad Ali went to Iraq to meet with Saddam Hussein about releasing 15 American civilians being held in Iraq by Hussein against their will.
After meeting with Hussein, Ali got all 15 American prisoners released and they returned to America 3 days later.
5. As a child, Muhammad Ali was refused an autograph from his boxing idol Sugar Ray Robinson.
When Ali became a prized fighter he vowed to never deny an autograph request, which he honored through his entire career. He even had a special P.O. box for anyone who wanted his autograph.
6. The morning after Muhammad Ali lost in a fight against Larry Holmes, a 14-year-old Mike Tyson promised him that when he “got big” he would take down Larry Holmes for him. 6 years later, Tyson fought against Larry Holmes and won.
7. The Hollywood Walk of Fame star for Muhammad Ali is the only one that’s placed on a wall and not the ground because Ali “did not want the name of Muhammad to be stepped on”
8. Muhammad Ali saved a man from committing suicide in 1981 by shouting at him ‘I am your brother.’
9. Wilt Chamberlain once challenged Muhammad Ali to a boxing match.
Wilt was a foot taller,60 pounds heavier, and had a 92-inch reach. During a joint press conference, Ali answered every question with “Timberrrrr!” After breaking to meet with his lawyers, Wilt returned and called the fight off.
10. Muhammad Ali threw his 1960 Olympic Gold Medal into the Ohio River, following is refused service at a “whites-only” restaurant. He would be awarded an honorary medal in 1996.
11. Muhammad Ali reportedly went two months without sex before a big fight, claiming it made him unbeatable in the ring.
12. The “Rumble in the Jungle” fight, Muhammad Ali allowed George Foreman to fruitlessly strike him in the arms and torso for 8 rounds without fighting back to tire him out, then punched Foreman ten times in a row to knock him out.
13. In 1976 Teófilo Stevenson was offered US$ 5 million to turn professional and challenge the world heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali. Stevenson refused the offer, saying “What is one million dollars compared to the love of eight million Cubans?” He won three Olympic gold medals for Cuba.
14. One of the first MMA fights was between Muhammad Ali and a Japanese pro wrestler.
Only shortly before the fight, Ali’s camp realized it was not going to be orchestrated. After the fight (and 64 kicks to his leg), Ali was left with 2 blood clots which nearly caused his leg to be amputated.
15. In 1978 D.C. comics published Superman vs. Muhammad Ali.
16. Muhammad Ali’s IQ was found to be in the 16th percentile, protecting him from the draft.