Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17th, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky to Cassius Clay Sr. and Odessa Grady Clay, Ali definitely had humble beginnings. His mother was a laborer working as a house cleaner and a cook and his father was a painter/muralist but mostly painted signs. Ali’s only sibling, Rudolph “Rudy” Clay was born about 2 years after him. Ali’s inspiration for boxing began right in his home town at the Louisville Home Show. A popular attraction for kids at the time because of the free ice cream and balloons Ali didn’t expect to get his bicycle stolen. Angered, he vowed to “whup” whoever had stolen it to the police officer Joe Martin. Martin just happened to be a trainer for young boxers and just 6 weeks later Ali won his first match against a Ronnie O’Keefe.
Nearly 6 years after that fight, he brought home a gold medal for the United States as the World Light-Heavyweight Olympic Champion at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. He was known for his powerful jabs, quick footwork, the way he stood upright with his hands at his side and his poetic mudslinging. One of his most famous quotes before a match was that he was going to “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”. He did just that winning the heavyweight boxing champion of the world an unprecedented three times, each time being legendary. His first time against Sonny Liston came as a surprise to many who came to see him lose but ended in Liston throwing the towel in the 7th round, his second time against George Foreman using his rope-and-dope technique knocking him out the 8th round, and his redemption against Leon Spinks that lasted all 15 rounds. It was his fights against Joe Fraizer at Madison Square Garden and the Thrila in Manila that also gained him respect. The fight in New York was known as the “Fight of the Century” and though he lost he hung tight, the second is considered to be greatest boxing fight in history because of the passion and determination that lasted all 15 rounds.
On February 26th, the day after he beat Liston, Ali announced his new name to be Cassius X and himself to be a newfound member of Islam. It was a very controversial move especially being that people saw the group as radical and racist, especially with Malcolm X seen as being more militant who had been his friend a couple of years. But he kept his faith saying “I believe in the religion of Islam. I believe in Allah and peace”. That dedication would come into play when he was drafted to go to war but declined as a conscientious objector and was denied, then sentenced to 5 years in prison and a 10,000 fine. During his appeal his passport was revoked and ultimately he was banned from boxing for 31/2 years. Even with the bad press that spread and people calling him a coward he came back still a champion winning his first match and the decision was even later reversed by the Supreme Court and found justifiable. Mohammad Ali was indeed the greatest and stuck true to his beliefs and was an inspiration for just that.
Furthermore, after retiring he may have stepped out of the limelight but he jumped into charity. He announced his Parkinson disease but did not let that deter him. He has made goodwill missions to Afghanistan and North Korea and delivered urgently needed medical supplies to an embargoed Cuba. Traveling around the globe, he has hand-delivered food and medical supplies to needy sites such as the Harapan Kita Hospital for Children in Jakarta, Indonesia, the street children of Morocco, and Sister