TERASLAMPUNG.COM — With Muhammad Ali, a true boxing legend has left the arena. Fans around the world mourn his death. To remember Ali, here are ten facts about The Champ every fan should know.
His most famous quote
Once an underdog boxer, Ali told boxing fans that he would “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” before fighting Sonny Liston. At the young age of 22, he won the World Heavyweight Champion title after defeating Liston in 1965 by KO in the seventh round.
His real name
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., the son of billboard painter Cassius ( Cash ) Clay and Odessa Clay called himself ‘Cassius X’ before taking the name ‘Muhammad Ali’. Ali dropped his birth name and renamed himself ‘Muhammad Ali’ as he joined the Nation of Islam. “Cassius Clay is a slave name. I didn’t choose it and I don’t want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free name. It means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me and of me,” he famously stated.
Ali’s interest in boxing started when he reported to a police officer that his bike had been stolen and that he was about to beat the thief. The officer directed him to boxing instead and trained him at a local community center.
His affiliation with Nation of Islam
Ali joined the Nation of Islam, an African-American Islamic religious movement, shortly after his victory over Sonny Liston. The movement promoted peace and humanity, and this inspired Ali to move closer toward the inner circle of the Nation and later influenced him to become a philanthropist. Shortly after his affiliation with the organization, he converted to Islam and changed his name.
His refusal to serve in the military
Ali refused to serve the US Military in the Vietnam war saying to the press on April 27, 1967, “I ain’t got nothing against no Viet Cong; no Viet Cong never called me nigger.” This refusal led to Ali losing his world champion title and boxing license in several states and resulted in imprisonment on draft evasion charges. Even so, he was firm in his decision and stated, “I had the world heavyweight title not because it was given to me, not because of my race or religion, but because I won it in the ring. Those who want to take it and start a series of auction-type bouts not only do me a disservice, but actually disgrace themselves. Sports fans and fair-minded people throughout America would never accept such a title-holder.”
His historical matches
Ali’s big comeback after losing his boxing license was the ‘Fight of The Century’ that was held in Madison Square Garden, New York City, on March 8, 1971. He fought as a challenger to undefeated champion Joe Frazier. Frazier won the 15-round fight in a unanimous decision, and this became Ali’s first professional defeat. Ali regained the title of Heavyweight Champion after fighting George Foreman in Kinshasa in October 1974, when Ali knocked down Foreman in the eighth round. The match became known as ‘The Rumble in The Jungle’. Another famous match is the “Thrilla in Manila” ( 1975 ), where Ali beat Joe Frazier in a 14-round fight with the “rope-a-dope” strategy, a boxing tactic of pretending to be trapped against the ropes, goading an opponent to throw tiring ineffective punches.
His love life
Muhammad Ali married four times. His first wife was Sonji Roi, a cocktail waitress who objected to Ali’s involvement in the Nation of Islam and divorced Ali only months after the wedding.. His second wife Belinda Boyd, whom Ali married in 1967, changed her name to Khalilah after the wedding and converted to Islam. They divorced in 1977, due to Ali’s affair with Veronica Porsche, whom he married eventually, but divorced in 1986. In the same year, Ali married Yolanda ( Lonnie ) Williams, who had been Ali’s friend since 1964 and had converted to Islam in her twenties.
As one of the most famous faces of the century, Ali inspired Hollywood to document his life story in a movie. A biopic titled Ali premiered in 2001 starring Will Smith, Jamie Foxx and Jon Voight, directed by Michael Mann. The movie was positively received and grossed $87.7 million across the world.
Muhammad Ali’s biography GOAT: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali ( Taschen, 2003 ) was released in two limited editions. Only 1,000 individually numbered copies were printed and signed by Muhammad Ali and artist Jeff Koons, who created two inflatable sculptures that came with the book. As German media Der Spiegelreviewed it, “This is not a book. This is a monument on paper, the most megalomaniacal book in the history of civilization, the biggest, heaviest, most radiant thing ever printed. Ali’s last victory.”
Ali suffered from Parkinson for three decades, affecting his speech and mobility. He was first diagnosed with the disease after trembling when lighting up the Olympic torch in Atlanta back in 1996. He was hospitalized frequently over the past years and died due to respiratory problems on June 3.