Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.; January 17, 1942) is the three-time Heavyweight Champion of the world and is often regarded as the best heavyweight ever. He seemed to always be on the path to greatness, as he started winning medals at an early age. By his 18th birthday he had already won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.
As an early professional still fighting under the name Cassius Clay, Ali's stock rose quickly. Beating everyone in his path and doing it with flair and style Cassius soon became the Heavyweight Champion. As soon as it looked like he could not be stopped however his career took a dramatic turn as in 1964 Cassius changed his name to Muhammad Ali and joined to the Nation of Islam. A staunch civil rights activist, Ali refused to be drafted in the military to fight in the Vietnam War for both political and religious reasons. Ali's refusal led to his arrest on the charge of draft dodging and he was subsequently stripped of his title and boxing license. Although Ali never served jail time, he was out of boxing for 4 years while his appeal made it to the Supreme Court where he was exonerated.
Although Ali missed 4 years during the prime of his boxing career, he still has more famous fights than any other man on the planet. "The Thrilla in Manila", "The Rumble in the Jungle" and other spectacles against great fighters like Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton and others established the legend of Ali and earned him the nickname of "The Greatest". Never before Ali had a boxer fought with such ferocity and flair, predicting the round of his opponents demise and using in-ring strategies like the "rope-a-dope".
Although Parkinson's disease has slowed Ali during his retirement years, he remains an ambassador of the sport, a strong activist for human rights, and one of the most beloved men on the planet.
Muhammad Ali never backed down from a challenge. He consistently fought the best heavyweights of his era and most of the time he won. The important thing was that win or lose he always took the challenge head on, without fear and with swagger.
Muhammad Ali was not scared to be unpopular. Even though he relished the spotlight and loved being famous he was more than willing to take the unpopular stance on many issues to include the Vietnam War, converting to Islam, changing his name and the oppression of African Americans and others. Standing up for his beliefs was much more important than being liked.
Muhammad Ali was a ground breaker. He took boxing to another level by adding a level of showmanship and flair before and during his fights. His rhymes, predictions and other antics changed the course of boxing forever; setting up the promoting of today which leads to superfights that make boxers millionaires.
"Inside of a ring or out, ain't nothing wrong with going down. It's staying down that's wrong." - Muhammad Ali