Undeniably one the most recognisable sportsman of all time, Muhammad Ali was both world heavyweight and people’s champion.
Winning Gold at the 1960 Summer Olympic in Rome aged just 18, Ali soon turned pro and won his first heavyweight title in 1964. His shuffling-feet and showboating-style made him a firm favourite with the crowd whilst his lightning speed and agility made him a most fearsome opponent.
Ali won 56 of his 61 professional bouts (37 by knock-out) before his eventual retirement in 1981 having won some of the most famous bouts of all-time such as the “Rumble In The Jungle” and “Thrilla In Manilla”.
Named “Sports Personality of The Century” by the BBC and “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated, Ali had a mouth to match his fists. Often speaking in rhyme his poetical taunts and larger-than-life character brought a level of excitement and theatre to the sport unlike any seen before. But, as he famously once said “It’s not bragging if you can back it up!”
His quick-wit, bravado and relentless self-belief made him a fascinating global icon and has since seen him become the most quoted sports person of all time; a title unlikely to ever be eclipsed. Indeed, his far-reaching influence on popular culture is beyond compare with that of any sports person.
Float like a butterfly, Sting like a bee, your hands can’t hit, what your eyes can’t see
In Music, countless songs quote and pay tribute to Ali including Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Free, No. 10”, R. Kelly’s “The World’s Greatest” and “Muhammad Ali” by Faithless to name just a few.
Ever the showman Ali had his own musical endeavours too. A close friendship with “King of Soul” Sam Cooke saw Ali record his own hits “The Gang’s All Here” and “I Am The Greatest” whilst also covering Ben E. King’s classic, “Stand By Me”.
In film the two most notable motion pictures are “When We were Kings” which documents the famous “Rumble In The Jungle” title fight against George Foreman whilst “Ali” starring Will Smith covers a wider time period.
An outspoken and unyielding civil rights campaigner, soon after this Ali’s first title fight he converted to The Nation of Islam and announced he would be changing his name. Born “Cassius Clay” Ali considered this his “slave name” and changed it temporarily to “Cassius X” before being given the name “Muhammad Ali”.
Ali first lost his heavyweight crown in 1967 not by defeat, but by his refusal to fight in the Vietnam war. This saw him striped of both his title and boxing license for over 3 years until he eventually won a Supreme Court appeal in 1971.
Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
Ever the champ, Ali battled Parkinson Syndrome for over 30 years having been first diagnosed in 1985. This did little to stop his relentless religious and charitable work or quell his larger-than-life charisma.
Muhammad Ali passed away on June 3rd 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona aged 74. The celebration of his life included a procession through his home city of Louisville, Kentucky and an interfaith event at which saw tributes from public figures including former President Bill Clinton.
Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, AZ—One of the world’s largest dedicated Parkinson’s Centers
Official Website: www.muhammadali.com/
If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.
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