At age 12 Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. went to a Louisville, Kentucky, police officer to report a stolen bicycle. Clay was furious and vowed to punch out the thief once found. The police officer, who was also a boxer and a trainer himself, suggested that Clay should learn fighting first. It was probably at this moment that the eventful journey of little Clay began. Six weeks later he won his first bout in a split decision.
Cassius Clay first faced Sonny Liston at the ring in February 1964, where he was victorious. The day after, he declared his intentions of becoming a member of the Nation of Islam. He renounced his last name calling it a “slave name”, and declared his name as “Cassius X”. On March 6, 1964 Elijah Muhammad named him Muhammad Ali, the name which had a glorious destiny in hold for this gifted youth.
In 1967, when Ali refused to serve for the U.S. Military, he was arrested and his boxing license was suspended. He was also stripped of all titles. His boxing license was reinstated in 1970. During his suspension, while he was free, Ali starred in a Broadway musical “Buck White” which ran only for four nights. Ali received decent reviews for his performance as a singer and actor.
The multi-talented boxer had an IQ of a meager 78. It was measured by the U.S. Army.
He also had a stint as a singer when Columbia Records released the album “I Am the Greatest” in 1963. This album included two of his songs, one of which was the cover of the Ben E. King hit “Stand by Me.”
When at the ring, he was the master of surprises as he boxed in unconventional styles not very common of heavyweight champions of that time. He had the exceptionally strong footwork and held his hands slowly and had mastered the left jab which he threw from unpredictable angles.
Muhammad Ali was ranked 1st by Ring Magazine in a 1998 ranking of greatest heavyweight champions of all eras. ESPN named him the 2nd greatest boxer in history only after welterweight and middleweight great Sugar Ray Robinson.
It’s a pity that the boxing legend was suffering from Parkinson’s disease for quite some years in the past which also offset some respiratory problems. He passed away on Friday, 3 June, at a hospital in Phoenix. It was announced late on Friday that the three-time heavyweight boxing champion had finally succumbed to his illness.
A 70’s kid can easily recall any of his epic fights and marvel at the great raw power that the boxer carried. With his demise ends a legend which may never be surpassed nor recreated. He was an enigma which was sought willingly by personalities in the fields of politics, sports, entertainment alike. One can easily find Muhammad Ali word records online but for us, he will always be “The People’s Champion.
Farewell dear man, you will always rule our hearts.
7th June, 2016