January 17, 1942 was a chilly day in Louisville, Kentucky. It was also the day that Cassius Marcellus Clay was born to Odessa and Cassius Clay Senior. Cassius Clay was an Afro-American, and he grew up in that city. When he was just twelve years old, an incident happened there that would forever change his life. You see, young Cassius and a friend of his were at the Columbia Auditorium one day in 1954. When the two boys walked back outside, they saw that Cassius’ bicycle had been stolen. To say he was distraught would be an understatement. The eighty-nine pound Cassius was so angry that he told a police officer he was going to “whup” the thief when he found him. The officer, in turn, advised Cassius that he had better learn how to box first before he made such a claim. And, Cassius Clay did just that! He won his first match, and that win led him to spend nearly the next decades in a boxing ring!
During his teenage years, Cassius Clay trained for, and boxed in, 108 fights. Before he turned eighteen years old, the young boxer had won six Kentucky Golden Gloves championships, two National Golden Gloves championships, and two National AAU titles. Shortly after his eighteenth birthday, in 1960, Cassius Clay won the coveted Olympic Gold Medal. He then went on to win a world title. After this win, Cassius became a member of the Nation of Islam. He also changed his name from “Cassius Clay” to “Muhammad Ali.”
Muhammad Ali’s boxing career was in full swing, so to speak, and so was the Vietnam War. Ali was drafted into the military in 1967, but he refused to go because of his religion; he was a minister. In turn, his boxing title was rescinded, his boxing licenses were revoked, and Ali was put out of the ring. He also faced a prison term for “draft evasion.”
The United States Supreme Court overturned Muhammad Ali’s charge in 1971. He then went on to fight against Ken Norton, Sonny Liston, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, and others.
“The Greatest”, as he was now called, was famous for his “dancing” abilities inside the ring. Ali
managed to glide his powerful body around the ring and stay out of his opponent’s reach. Until he went in to pummel them, that is. Muhammad Ali was also known for his “Ali Shuffle”. This was another slick dancing move he did with his feet. Ali’s dancing and agile moves earned him the description, “Floats like a butterfly, and stings like a bee.”
Before Ali finally retired from boxing in 1981, his greatest accomplishments were winning three titles. He beat Sonny Liston in1964, George Foreman in 1974, and Leon Spinks in1978. Muhammad Ali was the only boxer in history that had won the title three times!
Afro-American boxing champ Muhammad Ali was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. Throughout his illustrious boxing career, he had fifty-six boxing wins and only five losses.