On This Day: Muhammad Ali, Legendary Boxer and Activist, Passed Away in 2016

by Halle Ames
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On June 3, 2016, the world lost the legendary boxer and activist Muhammad Ali at the age of 74. Today we celebrate his legacy.

Muhammad Ali was undoubtedly considered one of the best boxers ever to live, but let’s take a look as to how Ali became the iconic fighter he was.

The Early Life of Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.

Ali was originally born under the name Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. He was one of two sons to an artist, Cassius Sr. and a household domestic worker, Odessa.

Britannica states that at the age of 12, Muhammad Ali began to fight under the guardianship of Louisville policeman Joe Martin. Ali showed incredible abilities in the sport and had a bright future ahead of him.

He began to fight at the amateur level and quickly advanced through the ranks. As a professional, Muhammad Ali qualified for the 1960s Olympic Games in Rome. Here, on an international stage, the boxer won the gold medal in the 175-pound weight class.

Muhammad Ali self-proclaimed himself “the Greatest,” but despite the gold medal around his neck, people still doubted his abilities due to his unconventional fighting style. However, after a huge upset win against Sonny Liston, the heavyweight champion of the world, people stopped questioning his abilities.

Two days after the fight, in 1964, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. adopted the religion of Islam and formally took the name, Muhammad Ali.

The boxer was seemingly unstoppable, beating any prized fighter you placed in front of him.

Controversy

By April of 1967, Ali refused the induction into the U.S. Army, citing that his religious beliefs kept him from fighting in the Vietnam War. This was a very controversial choice at the time. While under some conditions, the government saw this as okay if he refused all wars-like situations, but Ali noted that he would fight in an Islamic holy war, not making him eligible for denying the draft.

The boxing community stripped Muhammad Ali of his championship. They also forbade him from fighting by every state athletic commission in the US for three and a half years. In addition, he was criminally indicted and, on June 20, 1967, convicted for refusing induction into the U.S. military and sentenced to five years in prison.

He was free on bail, but after four years, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned the decision.

Muhammad Ali’s Trophy Case

Muhammad Ali’s trophy case was not a small one. He was the first fighter to win the world heavyweight championship on three separate occasions. Furthermore, he successfully defended this title an astounding 19 times.

Upon his retirement, the legendary boxer’s final record was 56 wins and five losses with 37 knockouts.

Later in life, his health began to deteriorate, along with his brain from the blows to the head. His family said he, unfortunately, died of “septic shock due to unspecified natural causes.”

Today we remember and honor the legend Muhammad Ali.

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