Former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali has passed away as a result of a respiratory illness. He was 74 years old at the time of his death.
Since many people of my generation are largely or completely unfamiliar with who Ali was, I’ll describe who Ali was.
Ali, who was born Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky in 1942, was one of the greatest athletes in the history of modern sports. As an amateur boxer, Ali won the gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the Games of the XVII Olympiad in Rome, Italy in 1960. Ali turned professional not long after his Olympic victory, and, in 1964, he won the World Heavyweight Championship by technical knockout (TKO) after Sonny Liston failed to answer the bell for the seventh round of the fight. Ali adopted the name Muhammad Ali not long after winning the title, and continued to win fight after fight.
Ali was a fighter, in and out of the ring. In addition to his legendary boxing ability in the ring, Ali was also famous for his opposition to the unjustified Vietnam War and the U.S. military draft for it. After being convicted of dodging the draft in 1967, Ali, a conscientious objector to military conflict, took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court and won; his conviction was overturned in 1971 by the nation’s highest court by unanimous decision, and Ali became a revered figure among those who sought to abolish the draft.
However, his suspension from boxing and the stripping of his world title lasted for over three years, and it wasn’t until 1970 that Ali returned to the ring. In 1971, Ali lost his first match as a professional against Joe Frazier, but Ali won the 1974 rematch against Frazier. In 1975, Ali regained his world title by knocking out George Foreman in a match dubbed The Rumble in the Jungle. Later that year, Ali won the Thrilla in Manilla against Frazier. Ali fought his last professional match in 1981, finishing his professional boxing career with a record of 56-5, with 37 of his wins by knockout (KO).
Ali was also famous for his speaking style, charisma, and his ability to grab the spotlight and own it. In fact, Ali was one of the few public figures in modern history to be able to effectively control and define his own public reputation. Ali turned trash-talking into a beautiful art form.
If one of Ali’s famous quotes could summarize him, it would be, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”