After over three decades of prolonged Parkinson’s disease, the 3-time world heavy weight champion finally kicked the bucket in a US hospital at the age of 74. Ali’s illness was further aggravated by subsequent respiratory disease; this reduced his verbal grandiloquence and physical shrewdness. The burial will later take place in his home town Louisville, Kentucky.
Born as Cassius Marcellus Clay, the legendary boxer made up his mind to learn the art of boxing after his bicycle was stolen at the age of 12. In his own words, he vowed to ‘’whoop the behind” of the body. He thereafter won the golden glove title before winning a gold medal as a light-heavy weight.
As he turned a professional boxer, and became fairly popular, Ali reacted to American racism after he was refused services at a soda store, he then went ahead to dump his Olympic Gold Medal into a river. Ali later joined an American Muslim sect (Nation of Islam) where he was mentored by one of the sect’s leader, Malcolm X. He finally converted to Muslim in 1963, He hid his new religion from people until he had received the crown after his glorious defeat against Sonny Liston two times.
He then renounced His slave name, Cassius Marcellus Clay and embraced the new name he received from the founder of Nation of Islam, Elijah Mohammad who renamed him as Mohammad Ali.
Ali’s boxing career came to an abrupt stop for close to 5 years when he refused enlistment into the US army during the war in Vietnam. This led to him being stripped of the Crown and also his boxing licence. Mohammad Ali said “Shoot them for what? They never called me a nigger. They never lynched me, They never put dogs on me. They didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. What do I want to shoot them for, for what? Why do I want to go shoot them, poor little people and babies and children and women?, How can I shoot them?, Just take me to jail”.
He was taken to trial on june 20, 1967 after which he was found guilty following 21 minutes of deliberation. Mohammad Ali was fined $10,000, faced five years jail term and also forfieted his passport.
He was stripped of the crown and hence found it difficult making a living, but then, he still had his mouth. Ali who was a voracious and eloquent speaker would go on lecture rounds, speaking at colleges for as low as $1,500 and as high as $10,000 to live and pay his lawyers.
During these dark moments, he sent some of his earnings to his mother and then the rest to his wife and kids.
While many tried to make him feel bad about his decision of not being enlisted in the army, here is what he had to say:
“There have been many questions put to me about why I refused to be inducted into the United States Army,” Ali said in the speech to students. “Especially, as some have pointed out, as many have pointed out, when not taking the step I will lose so much. I would like to say to the press and those people who think I lost so much by not taking the step, I would like to say I didn’t lose a thing up until this very moment. One thing, I have gained a lot. Number one, I have gained a peace of mind. I have gained a peace of heart. I now know I am content with almighty God himself, whose name is Allah. I have also gained the respect of everyone who is here today.
The Supreme Court reversed Ali’s conviction in 1971 by an 8-0 vote by the juries of the court, But by then, Ali was already back in the ring.
He returned from exile in 1970. Georgia didn’t have any monitoring athletic commission and so he wasn’t banned there. He faced Jerry Quarry on Oct. 26 in Atlanta, a fight Ali won during the third-round stoppage.
Here is a record of Ali’s boxing career:
1). Won Olympic light-heavyweight gold in 1960
2).Turned professional that year and was world heavyweight champion from 1964 to 1967, 1974 to 1978 and 1978 to 1979
3). Had 61 professional bouts, winning 56 (37 knockouts, 19 decisions), and losing five (4 decisions, 1 retirement)
He retired from boxing in 1981 after a unanimous decision loss to Trevor Berbick, completing his boxing career with a 55-5 record. Yet he is the only three-time lineal heavyweight champion, having won titles in 1964, ’74 and ’78.
Tributes to Ali
“It’s a sad day for life, man. I loved Muhammad Ali, he was my friend. Ali will never die. Like Martin Luther King his spirit will live on, he stood for the world.” – Don King, who promoted many of Ali’s fights, including the Rumble in the Jungle
“Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest human beings I have ever met. No doubt he was one of the best people to have lived in this day and age.” – George Foreman, Ali’s friend and rival in the Rumble in the Jungle
“There will never be another Muhammad Ali. The black community all around the world, black people all around the world, needed him. He was the voice for us. He’s the voice for me to be where I’m at today.” – Floyd Mayweather, world champion boxer across five divisions
Many years before his death, he became engaged in multiple philanthropic activities. Many of his charitable acts are not known to the media because he did not want the world to see it as a publicity stunt.
He rejuvenated a home for the Jewish elderly that was going to be closed for lack of money in 1973 by donating $400,000.
In 1990, shortly before the first Gulf War between the U.S. and Iraq, his meeting with Saddam Hussein led to the release of 15 U.S. hostages.
The imprints of the legendary boxer icon, Mohammed Ali are truly scattered all over the face of the earth, and His name will never be forgotten.
RIP Mohammed Ali, ‘THE GREATEST’.