Muhammad Ali transcended all renowned athletes by being the most recognized and influential human being in the modern world era.
The journey of “The Greatest of All Times” began after someone stole his new Schwinn bike in 1954. Young Cassius Clay vowed to a police officer named JoeMartin, “I’m gonna whup whoever stole my bike! “Martin told Clay that he better learn how to fight before he challenged anyone. After 6 months of training with Martin, Clay won his debut match in a three-round decision.
At the i960 Rome Olympics, Clay won the light heavyweight gold medal. He soon after turned professional and upset Sonny Liston in 1964 to become the world heavyweight champion. While training for the title fight with Liston, Clay met Malcolm X and was brought into the Nation of Islam. He then announced to the world that he no longer wanted to be called Cassius Clay, but from now on he demanded to be called Muhammad Ali. Howard Cosell was one of the few journalists who acknowledged Ali’s name change immediately.
Ali went on defending his heavyweight title all the way up to the time he refused to be inducted into the Vietnam War. He was stripped of his championship titles, passport and his boxing licenses for nearly 3,5 years while fighting court battles and facing a possible 5-year prison term. In 1971 he knocked out his greatest opponent when the Supreme Court reversed his conviction and upheld his religious conscientious objector claim. Ali rebounded from his forced absence by regaining and defending his world heavyweight title in historic boxing warfare with the likes of Joe Frazier. Ken Norton, Leon Spinks, and the stunning defeat of George Forman in Africa.
Ali, the humanitarian, has delivered critically needed medical supplies to an embargoed Cuba, travelled to Iraq to secure the release of 15 U.S. hostages, and created and raised funds for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center in Phoenix, Arizona. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Amnesty International Lifetime Achievement Award and National Constitution Center Liberty Medal. Muhammad Ali has proven that one person can change the world.