Friday Feature


MUHAMMAD ALI " THE GREATEST"



"People don't realize what they had till it's gone. Like President Kennedy, there was no one like him, the Beatles, and my man Elvis Presley. I was the Elvis of boxing." 




Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.; January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016) was an American Olympic and professional boxer and activist, widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century. From early in his career, Ali was known as an inspiring, controversial and polarizing figure both inside and outside the ring.

Clay was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and began training as a boxer when he was 12 years old. Cassius Clay Sr. gifted his son a new red-and-white Schwinn in 1954, which was promptly stolen. The 12-year-old, 89-pound Cassius Clay vowed “I'm gonna whup whoever stole my bike!” A policeman, Joe Martin, told young Cassius Clay that he better learn how to fight before he challenged anyone. After 6 months of training with Joe Martin, Cassius won his debut match in a three-round decision. Young Cassius Clay dedicated himself to boxing and training with an unmatched fervor. According to Joe Martin, Clay set himself apart by two things: He was “sassy,” and he outworked all the other boys.

Shortly after his high school graduation, 18 year-old Cassius Clay began his journey towards greatness at the 1960 Rome Olympics. His expansive personality and larger-than-life spirit earned him the nickname “The Mayor of Olympic Village.” The future 3-time Heavyweight World Champion nearly missed the trip to Rome due to his fear of airplane travel; he insisted on bringing a parachute on the plane with him. On September 5, 1960, “The Greatest” proved his dominance in the Light Heavyweight Boxing Division by beating Zigzy Pietrzykowski of Poland, capturing the Olympic Gold Medal. Muhammad Ali participated in the light-heavyweight class Golden Gloves tournament for novices in 1956. It took him three years, but finally in 1959, Ali was named Golden Gloves Champion and earned the Amateur Athletic Union’s national title in the light-heavyweight division.

At 22, he won the WBC and WBA heavyweight championships from Sonny Liston in an upset in 1964. Shortly after that, Clay decided to join the black Muslim group the Nation of Islam. He announced his conversion  and changed his "slave" name to Ali, and gave a message of racial pride for African Americans and resistance to white domination during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.  In 1966, two years after winning the heavyweight title, Ali further antagonized the government by refusing to enter the Vietnam War draft. He was stripped of his championship titles, passport, and boxing licenses. He lost an initial court battle and was facing a 5-year prison term. Muhammad Ali was the first national figure to speak out against the war in Vietnam. During his 3 ½ year layoff, Ali earned a living speaking at colleges. He successfully appealed in the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned his conviction in 1971. By that time, he had not fought for nearly four years—losing a period of peak performance as an athlete. Ali's actions as a conscientious objector to the war made him an icon for the larger counterculture generation.

Ali remains the only three-time lineal world heavyweight champion; he won the title in 1964, 1974, and 1978. Between February 25, 1964, and September 19, 1964, Ali reigned as the undisputed heavyweight champion. He is the only boxer to be named The Ring magazine Fighter of the Year five times. He was named Sportsman of the Century by Sports Illustrated and the Sports Personality of the Century by the BBC. Nicknamed "The Greatest", he was involved in several historic boxing matches. Notable among these were the "Fight of the Century", "Super Fight II" and the "Thrilla in Manila" versus his rival Joe Frazier, the first Liston fight, and "The Rumble in the Jungle" versus George Foreman.

At a time when most fighters let their managers do the talking, Ali, inspired by professional wrestler "Gorgeous George" Wagner, thrived in—and indeed craved—the spotlight, where he was often provocative and outlandish.  In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and publicly announced that he had the disease, a degenerative neurological condition attributed to brain injuries caused by his boxing career. Following his diagnosis, he created and continued to raise funds for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center in Phoenix, Arizona. 

In 2005, Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. He also opened the Muhammad Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, that same year. Despite the progression of Parkinson's and the onset of spinal stenosis, Ali remained active in public life. He was on hand to celebrate the inauguration of the first African-American president in January 2009, when Barack Obama was sworn into office. Soon after the inauguration, Ali received the President's Award from the NAACP for his public service efforts.
In early 2015, Ali was hospitalized for a severe urinary tract infection after having battled pneumonia. He was hospitalized again in early June 2016 for what was reportedly a respiratory issue. The revered athlete passed away on the evening of June 3, 2016, at a Phoenix, Arizona facility.Ali was survived by his fourth wife, Yolanda, whom he had been married to since 1986. The couple had one son, Asaad, and Ali had several children from previous relationships, including daughter Laila Ali, who followed in his footsteps by becoming a champion boxer.
http://www.biography.com/people/muhammad-ali-9181165

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2 comments:

  1. I am Dennis Baloyi, it was a pleasure to finally interact with the brother Steve Biko Foundation. it nice to go back in time on reading sister Mkhabela's profile and her participation the speeding the change in our country. It was after being expelled as part of the Turfloop SRC in 1972, I am proud that before we were expelled, we conceived and practiced the transfer of SASO activities to High Schools at Hwiti High School nest to Turfloop University (now University of Limpopo; when we realized that it works, we established SASM (Ms. Mkahbela's organisation) in Soweto (where in voluntary/political taught Science, Mathematics and Black Man You are on Your Own at Soweto High Schools at weekends for free (no grants then) under the direction of brother Ongopotse Ramotibi Tiro between 1972 and 1976; I was also there when, after forming SASM for our younger brothers and sisters, we formed the Black People's Convention at Edenvale (near Pietermaritzburg) under the conference chairmanship of Mr. Themba Son; the rest is history. I left South Africa in September 1975, returning in June 1995, unable to vote in 1994, not complaining, now our people riot instead of voting as seen in our beloved Capital Tshwane yesterday, the new June 16!

    whilst away, did undergraduate studies in Development Studies, later, thanks to Premier Thatcher (not our political friend for supporting the Apartheid and Rhodesian regimes), I self-taught the machinations of the London Stock Exchange in view of the fact that the Apartheid Johannesburg was number 16 in 1984 when I started; it was following her Privatisation (de-Nationalisation of National Companies) that self-taught. In the spirit of Black Person You are on Your Own (and I still mean Coloureds, Africans and Indiana and not blacks from bantoe and swaartes as widely use in South Africa in 2016, I teach mainly Historically Oppressed people as groups like Stokvels or individuals (teach not do it for you) practically by them saving and investing as allowed by law. I can be found on info@sadeveloped2025.co.za or WhatsApp 074 145 1124.

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