|Cassius Clay KOs Sonny Liston in 1964|
"CASSIUS CLAY STINGS LIKE A BEE
Back when he was known as Cassius Clay, his most notable achievement was winning an Olympic gold medal in Rome in 1960. It was in that same year that he turned professional. On Feb. 25, 1964, when he was just 22 years old, he stopped the fearsome Sonny Liston to win the Heavyweight Title. For the American public and media, he became an African-American sports star unlike any they had known. In front of cameras before and after that fight, he exhibited the showmanship that would help define his public persona with his famous quote: "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee". He was exceptional in the ring; as one journalist described him: "A fighter with a big man’s power, a little man’s speed and a Renaissance painter’s creative genius". As soon as that first title fight was over, he stood on the ring ropes waving his gloved right hand and shouting, “I am the greatest! I am the greatest! I’m the king of the world.’’ It was after this fight that he announced he had changed his name to Muhammad Ali and joined the Nation of Islam.
Ali fought for what he believed in by refusing to join the army and fight in Vietnam, which saw him arrested and stripped him of his title. This resulted in him not being able to fight for 43 months. Despite being vilified for this at the time, he stood by his decision. According to his friend Ron DiNicola, Ali is beloved throughout the world for taking on his government all those years ago. He famously told a reporter, "Man I ain't got no quarrel with them Vietcong".
In 1971, Ali lost to Joe Frazier in an unanimous decision but would regain his heavyweight title back in 1974 after beating George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire, in what was known as the "Rumble in the Jungle". This shows that Ali did not let defeat and disappointment affect him; rather, it made him determined to come back stronger than ever. This teaches us that even the greatest of athletes can fall, but what makes them great is the ability to come back stronger than before. It is a lesson that we can all learn from.
In the end, Ali has become that rarest of humans, beloved not mostly for what he did but simply for who he is. Despite the progression of his Parkinson's disease, which he has been suffering from for more than 35 years, he remains active in public life. According to his wife Lonnie, it started around his last two fights. He embodies the true meaning of a champion with his tireless dedication to the causes he believes in. He now spends most of his time in Arizona, where he is involved annually with the 20-year-old Celebrity Fight Night, a charity event that has raised more than $100 million. A portion of that benefits the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. Ali will forever be remembered as a great in history and will always remain an inspiration to people from across the world."
Ali's incredible journey ended on June 3, 2016. R.I.P.