Who was the greatest boxer of all time?
He was fast of fist and foot — lip, too — a heavyweight champion who promised to shock the world and did. Even after the punches had taken their toll, he floated, he stung.
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky, Ali began boxing at the age 12 and vowed to policeman Joe Martin that he would “wipe out” the person who stole his new bicycle.
Coach, training, boxing style…
Angelo Dundee began training Ali at his boxing gym and won and defended the heavyweight championship in epic fights in exotic locations.
The beginning of a six-year amateur career fetched the light heavyweight Olympic gold medal in 1960. He made millions of dollars with his lightning-quick jab and fought anyone who meant anything.
Ali went on to punch reigning champion, Liston’s face lumpy, due to a brutal bout that Ali said afterward was “the closest thing to dying” he had experienced. He became champion for the first time on Feb. 25, 1964, when Liston quit on his stool after the sixth round.
Peak of success
Ali made $57 million in his pro career; he had taken 29,000 punches to the head but the effect of the punches lingered long after most of the money spent.
Reviled by millions worldwide and revered by millions more, Ali cut quite a figure – 210 pounds and 6 feet 3 in his prime. He did just that in a way no heavyweight had ever fought before “Flies like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” his cornermen exhorted.
With a wit as sharp as the punches he used to “wipe” opponents, Ali dominated sports for three decades, finished with a record of 56-5 with 37 knockouts and was the first man to win heavyweight titles three times.
Career fluctuations, personal life, death…
Ali’s quiet later life was had breathtaking highs as well as terrible lows and in contrast to the roar of a career earlier. Ali shocked the boxing world by changing his name to Muhammad Ali after he beat Liston to win the heavyweight title in 1964 and converted to Islam.
He was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, stripped off his title and banned from boxing – ravaged his magnificent body, muted his majestic voice and ended his storied career in 1981.
“A man who is not courageous enough to take risks will never accomplish anything in life.”
He had four wives, from second wife Belinda Boyd, four children with her, two more with his third wife, Veronica Porsche, and he and his fourth wife, Lonnie Williams, adopted a son.
‘The greatest’ boxing legend Muhammad Ali died at 74, on June 3, 2016, in Scottsdale-Phoenix area with respiratory problems.
Isn’t the story a journey of struggle, love, stardom and destruction?
Preview Photo: spox.com