Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. His parents were Marcellus Clay and Odessa Grady Clay. He won six Kentucky Golden Glove titles, two National Golden Gloves, two Amateur Athletic Union championships, a Golden Medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, and the world professional heavyweight championship three times.
Before meeting the “invincible” heavyweight champion, Sonny Liston, Clay was 18-0 in professional boxing. Before the match between the two, Clay started trash-talking Liston, creating an uproar boxing had never seen before. Clay won the match by knockout in the first round. Clay then announced that he had joined the Nation of Islam and took the name Muhammad Ali. The media generally continued to call him Cassius Clay, except during interviews.
When the Vietnam War started, Ali received a draft notice. Everything went fine, up until he was asked to take the Army oath. He refused to recite it, saying simply that, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong”. An all-white jury later found him guilty of draft evasion. Ali’s boxing license was revoked. He found himself stripped of his world champion title. About four years later, the US Supreme Court overturned the conviction. They decided that under the tenets of Islam, Ali was a conscientious objector, not a criminal as previously suspected.
Ali fought to regain championship in 1971, but lost to Joe Frazier. In the 1974 rematch, he finally managed to win against Frazier by knockout. Soon after came his championship fight in Zaire against George Foreman. The fight was dubbed “the Rumble in the Jungle”. Ali knocked out Foreman, winning his second heavyweight championship. In 1978, Ali lost the championship title to Leon Spinks. Most thought the 36 year old boxer’s career had ended. After seven months of speculation, Ali fought Spinks for the championship title and won by knockout. In 1979, Ali announced his retirement.
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