Brash, handsome and passionately outspoken, at 22-year-old Ali was the complete polar opposite of Sonny Liston, an old-school humble quiet boxer who wanted nothing more than to shut this newcomer up. Ali constantly berated, taunted Liston, calling him names like the “big ugly bear.” In the pre-bout hype, Ali announced
“Clay comes out to meet Liston and Liston starts to retreat,
If Liston goes back an inch farther he’ll end up in a ringside seat.
Clay swings with a left,
Clay swings with a right,
Just look at young Cassius carry the fight.
Liston keeps backing but there’s not enough room,
It’s a matter of time until Clay lowers the boom.
Then Clay lands with a right, what a beautiful swing,
And the punch raised the bear clear out of the ring.
Liston still rising and the ref wears a frown,
But he can’t start counting until Sonny comes down.
Now Liston disappears from view, the crowd is getting frantic
But our radar stations have picked him up somewhere over the Atlantic.
Who on Earth thought, when they came to the fight,
That they would witness the launching of a human satellite.
Hence the crowd did not dream, when they laid down their money,
That they would see a total eclipse of Sonny.”
– Cassius Clay, As read on CBS’ I’ve Got a Secret
Even at a young age Clay was the most savvy of promoters. Later in his life, he would “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee,” a verse that became etched in pop culture history. He also declared himself “the greatest,” which he absolutely became. Clay went on to win that fight with Sonny Liston, became heavyweight champion of the world May 25, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine.
Muhammad Ali, who was renowned as much for his wit and principles as his fighting prowess, has passed away at age 74, he died peacefully Friday in Phoenix, Arizona.
Ali, 74, had been at a Phoenix hospital since Thursday with what spokesman Bob Gunnell had described as a respiratory issue.
“After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74. The three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer died this evening,” Gunnell said in a statement. “The Ali family would like to thank everyone for their thoughts, prayers, and support and asks for privacy at this time.”
Ali was regarded as one of the most charismatic people of his era. Through his athletic skills, his cocky sense of humor and defiance of the government, Ali piled up victories, fans and critics.
He was the first boxer to win the world heavyweight title three times, retiring in 1981 with a record of 56-5, with 37 knockouts. In 1999.
About Muhammad Ali:
Born Cassius Clay on Jan. 17, 1942, in segregated Louisville, Kentucky, Ali was an unlikely candidate for global stardom. At age 12, his bicycle was stolen, and he told a local police officer that he planned to beat up the thief. The officer, Joe Martin, who also coached boxing, advised the young boy to learn how to fight first and took him under his wing.
He began boxing as an amateur when he was 12 years old and in 1964 became heavyweight champion with a knockout of Sonny Liston. That year he joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name.
Ali’s sparkling career was interrupted for 3½ years in the 1960s when he refused induction into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and was convicted of draft evasion. The Supreme Court overturned the conviction.
Other famous Ali fights:
The Fight of the Century: (also known as The Fight) is the title boxing writers and historians have given to the boxing match between champion Joe Frazier (26–0, 23 KOs) and challenger Muhammad Ali (31–0, 25 KOs), held on March 8, 1971, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Frazier won in 15 rounds via unanimous decision. It was first time that two undefeated boxers fought each other for the heavyweight title.
The Thrilla in Manila: was the third and final boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. It was contested in 1975 for the Heavyweight Championship of the World at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, on Wednesday, October 1. Ali won by technical knockout (TKO) after Frazier’s chief second, Eddie Futch, conceded the fight prior to the 15th round. The name comes from Ali who would say “killa and a thrilla and a chilla, when I get that gorilla in Manila.”
The Rumble in the Jungle: was a historic boxing march in 1974 set in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo). Held at the 20th of May Stadium on the night of October 30, 1974 (4:00 am), featuring the undefeated world heavyweight champion George Foreman against challenger Muhammad Ali, the former heavyweight champion. Attendance was about 60,000 cheering fans in a hot, muggy night in Africa chanting “Ali, boma ye!”. Ali would end up winning by knockout, putting Foreman down just before the end of the eighth round. Ali would frequently began to lean on the ropes and cover up, letting Foreman punch him on the arms and body till he became too tired (a strategy Ali later dubbed the rope-a-dope).
After Pro Fighting:
In 1984, at age 42, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome, which shares symptoms with the degenerative neurological condition of the same name. Some believe Ali’s condition was brought on in part by the many blows his body had absorbed over the year.
Despite his health concerns, Ali remained an active philanthropist through his post-boxing days, supporting the Special Olympics, Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Arizona and a museum bearing his name in Louisville.
A trembling Ali made a surprise appearance at the 1996 centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, lighting the Olympic Cauldron during the Opening Ceremonies. The touching moment is considered one of the greatest in Olympics history, and also served as one of the few live televised memories of Ali for those too young to have seen him fight. Sixteen years later at the London Games, Ali made another surprise appearance.
Ali also worked on numerous humanitarian missions while mingling with world leaders as a U.N. Messenger of Peace, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from then-President George W. Bush in 2005.
Ali is survived by his fourth wife, Lonnie. He had nine children: Laila Ali, who became a professional fighter; Rasheda Ali; Maryum Ali; Miya Ali; Hana Ali; Jamillah Ali; Khaliah Ali; Asaad Amin; and Muhammad Ali Jr.
Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston after dropping him with a short hard right to the jaw on May 25, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine.
Source: CNN, Wikipidia