The three-time heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali needs no introduction. Born on 17th January, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky in the U.S., this American boxer had modest beginnings. It was not only his flamboyant style in the ring that brought him into the limelight, but he was also intensely outspoken about social issues that shrouded him in controversy. Fondly nicknamed as 'The Greatest', Muhammad Ali is known as a man who follows strict principles in life. With an illustrious career, this man caused a sense of fear in the boxing ring.
It was at the age of 12 when Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr, known as Muhammad Ali later, had his first tryst with boxing. One fine evening, his bike was stolen from the Columbia auditorium. This shocked the young boy, who was already boiling with rage. This was the time when he was introduced to Joe Martin, a police officer who advised him to learn boxing before attempting to fight a person! As an amateur, Ali was trained by Joe and Fred Stoner, an African-American trainer. From thereon, Ali went on to bag many awards. A total of 6 Kentucky Golden Gloves awards, Amateur Athletic Union National titles and 2 National Golden Gloves titles were awarded to Ali. He also won the Light-heavyweight gold medal in the Summer Olympics held in Rome in the year, 1960.
His first professional achievement came in 1960, when he defeated Tunney Hunsaker. During the period between 1960-1963, Muhammad Ali had a record-breaking winning spree by defeating pros such as Tony Esperti, Jim Robinson, Alonzo Johnson, and Doug Jones. In 1964, Ali defeated Sonny Liston and won the Heavyweight Champion of the World title. It is also said that Ali, disgusted with incidents of racism, chucked his Olympic medal into a river as a way of protest and opted for Islam.
Despite a setback in May 1967, when his license was taken away and he was even asked to serve a 5 years sentence in prison, Ali tried to bounce back into the professional scene. He was helped by a senator and by this time, the support for Ali had grown. By 1970 he received his boxing license back and he defeated Jerry Quarry. But, he was defeated by Joe Frazier. However, this did not stop him and he won against Joe in 1975. In 1978, Ali lost to Leon Spinks. However, in a rematch held in 1978, Ali fought against Spinks for the Heavyweight title. This time round, Spinks was defeated by Ali. However, despite the victory, Muhammad Ali announced his retirement on the 27th June, 1979.
Even after the announcement of his retirement, Ali returned in 1980 to fight Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick, but lost to both. At that time, Ali had a record of 56 victories and just 5 losses!
This dynamic sports personality has a street named after him in Louisville, Kentucky. He had even been elected to the Boxing Hall of Fame apart from being included in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. In 1996, he was awarded the honor of lighting the Olympic torch in Atlanta. He was also awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 1997. BBC honored Ali by awarding him a BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award. He was also the only man to have a three time victory in the linear heavyweight championship. Despite being diagnosed with the Parkinson's Syndrome in 1984, Ali worked and helped the downtrodden by lending his name to many such organizations.
In December 2014, Muhammad Ali was hospitalized for pneumonia, then in January 2015 for a urinary tract infection. On June 2, 2016, he was hospitalized again for his respiratory problem. His health declined and on June 3, 2016, he passed away, aged 74. Surely, this greatest heavyweight boxer has been and shall continue to be, an inspiration for many.