Muhammad Ali, the silver-tongued boxer and civil rights champion who famously proclaimed himself The Greatest and then spent a lifetime living up to the billing, is dead.
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Muhammad Ali – Boxer, Philanthropist, Legend
Muhammad Ali Early Life
Boxer, philanthropist and social activist Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. Ali showed at an early age that he wasn’t afraid of any bout— inside or outside of the ring. Growing up in the segregated South, he experienced racial prejudice and discrimination firsthand.
At the age of 12, Ali discovered his talent for boxing through an odd twist of fate. His bike was stolen, and Ali told a police officer, Joe Martin, that he wanted to beat up the thief. “Well, you better learn how to fight before you start challenging people,” Martin reportedly told him at the time.
Ali started working with Martin to learn how to spar, and soon began his boxing career.
In 1960, Ali won a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team, and traveled to Rome, Italy, to compete. At 6′ 3″, Ali was an imposing figure in the ring, but he also became known for his lightning speed and fancy footwork.
After winning his first three bouts, Ali defeated Zbigniew Pietrzkowski from Poland to win the light heavyweight gold medal.
After his Olympic victory, Ali was heralded as an American hero. He soon turned professional with the backing of the Louisville Sponsoring Group, and continued overwhelming all opponents in the ring. Ali took out British heavyweight champion Henry Cooper in 1963, and then knocked out Sonny Liston in 1964 to become the heavyweight champion of the world.
Philanthropy and Diagnosis of Parkinson’s
In his retirement, Ali devoted much of his time to philanthropy.
He announced that he had Parkinson’s disease in 1984, a degenerative neurological condition, and was involved in raising funds for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Centre in Phoenix, Arizona. Over the years, Ali also supported the Special Olympics and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, among other organizations.
Ali traveled to numerous countries, including Mexico and Morocco, to help out those in need. In 1998, he was chosen to be a United Nations Messenger of Peace because of his work in developing nations. In 2005, Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W Bush. He also opened the Muhammad Ali Centre in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, that same year.
Universally regarded as one of the greatest boxers in history, Ali’s stature as a legend continues to be celebrated not only for his remarkable athletic skills but for his willingness to speak his mind and his courage to challenge the status quo.
Rest in peace.