Muhammad Ali - Essay Samples And Topic Ideas For Free
Muhammad Ali was a significant figure in the 20th century, known for his extraordinary boxing career and his political activism. Essays on Muhammad Ali could explore his boxing techniques and historic fights, his conversion to Islam, or his opposition to the Vietnam War. Discussions could also delve into his impact on the civil rights movement, his legacy in and outside the boxing ring, or his influence on sports activism. Muhammad Ali’s multifaceted life offers a diverse range of topics from sports history to political activism and racial justice. We’ve gathered an extensive assortment of free essay samples on the topic of Muhammad Ali you can find at Papersowl. You can use our samples for inspiration to write your own essay, research paper, or just to explore a new topic for yourself.
Muhammad Ali Biography
Muhammad Ali was a professional boxer and very passionate. One of the best boxers in the world, a person who practiced boxing all his life, a person who is very inspirational, Muhammad Ali! He started boxing when he was 12 years old and had very inspirational quotes. He always had one fear, It was planes. He also struggled with some things in his boxing career and outside his life. Muhammad Ali lived a good life as a boxer, also as […]
Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. and Muhammad Ali
The guy is practically a shining star, “A champion is someone who gets up when he can't.” His name, “Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.” was otherwise known as Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali was a brave man, he stood up for what was right and also took a lot of heat and risks from time to time. Muhammad Ali was born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. Ali was born and here, and stayed for 52 years. He had 4 brothers […]
Muhammed Ali: Issues of Race and Religion
Issues of race, religion and governmental issues Ali never shied away from. Ali was very candid about those issues which made him a disputable figure during his career. In 1964, he changed his name to Muhammed Ali “upon converting to Islam and afflicting with the Nation of Islam” (Sims, 1). Ali was likewise outstanding since he was a dark man who was candidly pleased for being dark. He wanted to convert to a Black Muslim and change his name to […]
Champion Boxer Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali was a very important American. He was the greatest champion boxer of his times. He was born on January 17, 1942, and in Louisville, KY. Some important details of his early life are that Muhammad Ali lived during the segregated times. He couldn't go to any school that the white people were in so instead he went where the black people were. Muhammad Ali couldn't go to the same school, restaurants and store as the white people. There […]
The Controversy of Ali being Islamic and not Going to War
Muhammed Ali, born Cassius Clay, was a great American boxing legend. He changed his religion to the Nation of Islam, and because of his religious beliefs, he did not want to fight in the Vietnam War. As a result of his decision, Muhammed Ali was sentenced to prison, suspended from boxing and stripped of his heavyweight titles. But, how would the American society view this bold move? To stand before the draft board and refuse, what others view as, your […]
We will write an essay sample crafted to your needs.
Muhammad Ali: Biography and Facts
"The society and culture that Muhammad Ali grew up in was very different from the society that existed when he died. Ali has an influence on these changes in society. The 1960s was a time of new ideas of thinking and expressions had opened many pathways to the American culture and society. When Cassius Clay was growing up in the 1940-50s segregation was widespread schools, restaurants, housing, restrooms, and working were all segregated by different races. In fact in 1957 […]
Biography of Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali was a professional boxer, activist, and philanthropist. He is nicknamed “ the greatest “. He is one of the greatest boxers of all time. He won the the world heavyweight championship, won 56 fights, lost 5 and had 37 knockouts. Ali was important to history because of what he stood for and believed in. Ali grew up in the 1950-60’s. In this time blacks and whites were not allowed to be in the same places for example school, […]
Army’s Fort Benning
A white soldier was killed, and several others were wounded during, which spread over weeks. The Marine base at Camp Lejeune and the Army's Fort Benning were the important domestics to witness an unbelievable racial problem. Muhammed Ali once said, “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human […]
Muhammad Ali: Winner Strategy
The 1960’s was a time of change. There was the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the gay rights movement, and then there was the anti-vietnam war movement. That was where the U.S. drafted youth men and forced them to go to war. One of those men was Cassius Clay. When I say the name Cassius Clay, you probably don’t recognize it. Well what if I told you he was a olympic gold medalist, won the heavyweight title three times, […]
A Newly Renowned Boxer Muhammad Ali
As the Vietnam War was on the rise and segregation filled the nation, Muhammad Ali, a newly renowned boxer, declined being drafted into the U.S. army on account of his Muslim beliefs which resulted in the tragedy of losing all his boxing titles, honor, pride and a five-year jail sentence; this event affected the country heavily; it sparked more controversy over the Vietnam War across America. Many began protesting drafting and the war, discrimination and segregation became apparent in Muhammad […]
Influential People that Fought for Equality and Justice
Influential People That Fought for Equality and Justice Racism has been an issue for many years and still seems to control people today. Many believe that racism was gone once slavery was abolished. The truth is that racism has been an topic that has not yet been handled. There have been multiple blacks that have helped break the ice for blacks to receive equal treatment and they are the reason why there has been a major progress at equality. Martin […]
Muhammad Ali: Perseverance through Life
Muhammad “The Greatest” Ali faced many trials during his life. While he was one of the most famous athletes of all time, he encountered a variety of struggles. Not only was he known for his abilities athletically, but his brave stance for human rights as well. Muhammad Ali was a strong, determined man who fought through all of his difficulties. He spoke out against racism, stood up for his religious beliefs, and fought through his Parkinson’s disease. Ali grew up […]
Cassius Clay Jr.(Muhammad Ali) Biography
My name was Cassius Clay Jr. And it all began when somebody stole my bike, and everything took off from there. I was sitting on the steps of the place that would soon become the birthplace of my career. There I was, crying and angry. When a man had told me that a police officer owned a gym in the basement and I should talk to him about my stolen Schwinn. When I went to go and speak of my […]
Sport: Hard Work Vs Talent
African American is viewed as superiors in athletics as they have a lot of conditions that favor them. They are outstanding an athlete and tend to win. Also, African American is brought up in an environment that supports their athlete. Their bodies are masculine and are suitable for the athlete's sport. The African American are well known to perform well in the games compared to other races; it seems that the sports run in their genes. Research shows that most […]
Muhammed Ali – Best Boxer
The man who was soon to end up one of the best boxers ever was born in Kentucky, in 1942. His birth name was Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr and later on, would be legally changed to Muhammed Ali. Cassius’s name came from “Ali’s great-great-grandfather, who was a slave of Cassius Marcellus Clay, a relative of Henry Clay and ambassador to Russia in the 1860s” (Marks, 1). In Ali’s life, growing up he was faced with discrimination for the color of […]
The History Behind Hip Hop
Introduction to Hip Hop As the legendary Notorious B.I.G. said, “I'm making music for the people. If y'all love the music, y'all gonna buy the music.”1 In this sense, music unifies experiences and through these experiences, communities are unified and sometimes, divided. Music serves many purposes in life, whether it is to celebrate or grieve. For instance, music of one culture unites them but divides them from another culture. It is interesting that music is, at its root, combining different […]
The Factors that Spark Change Motivation
Angel Velasquez English 11 Pd. 8 Mrs. Scott 5 March 2019 The Factors That Spark Change Motivation is the fuel that drives someones to urge themselves to do anything. The first step to create lasting change is to find a proper motivation to spark the change. During the history of the United States, freedom was used as the driving motivation for equal rights and opportunities. There are many factors that are important to bring change. Those factors are racial inequality, […]
“The Greatest” Heavyweight Boxer Muhamad Ali
Often referred to as “The Greatest” heavyweight boxer of all time, Muhamad Ali had a “unique fighting style… and was quick and graceful on his feet” which propelled him into popularity (Group 2016). Yet this athlete was an outspoken activist about several issues that showered him in controversy that led to a fearlessness in life and in the ring, all while supporting world peace. Growing up in Kentucky, Ali experienced racism in every aspect of his life and in fact, […]
Modern Olympic Games
The modern Olympic games have been around for more than one century. There have been many respectable games throughout this time for many reasons, but one of the most defining Olympics in history are the 1960 Olympic Games. The 1960 Olympics took place in Rome, Italy from August 25 - September 11. The games featured 5,338 athletes competing in 150 events for 83 different countries. The 1960 Olympic games had many firsts for humankind, as well as many great athletes […]
The Fictional Character of Tim O’Brien
“There were two kinds of methods to avoid being drafted when your number was called: illegal and legal” (Stilwell). Those who did so illegally could face a fine, and years in jail. Those who did so legally, such as famous boxer Muhammad Ali, still faced some controversy. Within the story The Things They Carried written by Tim O’Brien, is consisted of short stories explaining the life of fictional Tim and friends, and their journey throughout the Vietnam War. The fictional […]
Additional example essays.
- How Did Martin Luther King Changed the World
- Jackie Robinson Civil Rights Movement: Breaking Barriers and Inspiring Change
- Revisiting the Controversy: Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults?
- Singer vs. Narveson Solution to World Poverty
- Enlightenment Ideas Reflected in the Declaration of Independence
- Events that Influenced on Declaration of Independence
- Martin Luther King Jr.: Civil Disobedience in Challenging Injustice
- Is Social Media Making Us More Narcissistic?
- Homelessness Causes and Effects: Taking Responsibility and Making a Difference
- Rosa Parks Civil Rights Movement: Igniting Change
- The Death Penalty and Juveniles
- Capital Punishment vs. Juveniles
1. Tell Us Your Requirements
2. Pick your perfect writer
3. Get Your Paper and Pay
Home — Essay Samples — Life — Muhammad Ali — Muhammad Ali Biography
Muhammad Ali Biography
- Categories: Muhammad Ali
About this sample
Words: 1184 |
Published: Mar 1, 2019
Words: 1184 | Pages: 3 | 6 min read
- Hauser, T. (2004). Muhammad Ali: His life and times. Simon & Schuster.
- Kram, M. (2001). Ghosts of Manila: The Fateful Blood Feud Between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Harper Perennial.
- Manning, R. (2016). Muhammad Ali: The making of an icon. Plume.
- Mead, R. (2017). Ali: A life. Bloomsbury Publishing.
- Montville, L. (2017). Sting like a bee: Muhammad Ali vs. the United States of America, 1966-1971. Broadway Books.
- Remnick, D. (1999). King of the world: Muhammad Ali and the rise of an American hero. Vintage.
- Roberts, R. (2002). Papa Jack: Jack Johnson and the era of white hopes. Free Press.
- Robinson, D., & Riley, K. (1991). I never had it made: An autobiography of Jackie Robinson. HarperCollins.
- Smith, J., & Carlos, T. (2012). Silent gesture: The autobiography of Tommie Smith. Temple University Press.
- Wiggins, D. K. (2004). Boxing in Black and White: A Statistical Study of Race in the Ring, 1949-1987. University of Arkansas Press.
Cite this Essay
Let us write you an essay from scratch
- 450+ experts on 30 subjects ready to help
- Custom essay delivered in as few as 3 hours
Get high-quality help
Prof Ernest (PhD)
- Expert in: Life
+ 120 experts online
No need to pay just yet!
2 pages / 963 words
1 pages / 633 words
2 pages / 1088 words
2 pages / 1014 words
Remember! This is just a sample.
You can get your custom paper by one of our expert writers.
121 writers online
Still can’t find what you need?
Browse our vast selection of original essay samples, each expertly formatted and styled
Related Essays on Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali was an African American who was a former professional heavy weight boxer and one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. His boxing career started in the 1960’s and it ended in 1981. He was the first boxer to [...]
I don’t remember much about Terry Millwood’s Open Taekwondo Tournament. I assume the incessant roars of a cheering crowd rung loudly in the air during my fight, but I can’t say I remember hearing them. Judges stood to my side, [...]
Some may know him as the People’s Champion, others know him as the Greatest. Born as Cassius Marcellus Ray Jr., Muhammad Ali has been renown as the world’s greatest boxer. He is a prestiged member of both the black community and [...]
Over the course of LeBron James career in the NBA he has been dominant. LeBron James has been arguably the best player to ever play the game of basketball in the NBA. Analyzing and observing LeBron’s game since he has entered [...]
Recently, warnings about the risks of concussions in football have come from retired players, coaches, medical professionals, the media and active veterans. The public seems to take even the new studies on the long terms risks [...]
The backhand stroke is one of the principal strokes of tennis. It is used frequently during all stages of a tennis match or a practice, and is therefore an extremely important skill for any tennis player to master. The stroke’s [...]
By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and Privacy statement . We will occasionally send you account related emails.
Where do you want us to send this sample?
Be careful. This essay is not unique
This essay was donated by a student and is likely to have been used and submitted before
Download this Sample
Free samples may contain mistakes and not unique parts
Sorry, we could not paraphrase this essay. Our professional writers can rewrite it and get you a unique paper.
Please check your inbox.
We can write you a custom essay that will follow your exact instructions and meet the deadlines. Let's fix your grades together!
Get Your Personalized Essay in 3 Hours or Less!
- Instructions Followed To The Letter
- Deadlines Met At Every Stage
- Unique And Plagiarism Free
- History Classics
- Your Profile
- Find History on Facebook (Opens in a new window)
- Find History on Twitter (Opens in a new window)
- Find History on YouTube (Opens in a new window)
- Find History on Instagram (Opens in a new window)
- Find History on TikTok (Opens in a new window)
- This Day In History
- History Podcasts
- History Vault
- History Travel
By: History.com Editors
Updated: September 12, 2018 | Original: December 16, 2009
Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) was an American former heavyweight champion boxer and one of the greatest sporting figures of the 20th century. An Olympic gold medalist and the first fighter to capture the heavyweight title three times, Ali won 56 times in his 21-year professional career. Ali’s outspokenness on issues of race, religion and politics made him a controversial figure during his career, and the heavyweight’s quips and taunts were as quick as his fists. Born Cassius Clay Jr., Ali changed his name in 1964 after joining the Nation of Islam. Citing his religious beliefs, he refused military induction and was stripped of his heavyweight championship and banned from boxing for three years during the prime of his career. Parkinson’s syndrome severely impaired Ali’s motor skills and speech, but he remained active as a humanitarian and goodwill ambassador.
Muhammad Ali’s Early Years and Amateur Career
Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., the elder son of Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. (1912-1990) and Odessa Grady Clay (1917-1994), was born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky . It was a red-and-white Schwinn that steered the future heavyweight champion to the sport of boxing. When his beloved bicycle was stolen, a tearful 12-year-old Clay reported the theft to Louisville police officer Joe Martin (1916-1996) and vowed to pummel the culprit. Martin, who was also a boxing trainer, suggested that the upset youngster first learn how to fight, and he took Clay under his wing. Six weeks later, Clay won his first bout in a split decision.
Did you know? Muhammad Ali has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated 38 times, second only to basketball great Michael Jordan.
By age 18 Clay had captured two national Golden Gloves titles, two Amateur Athletic Union national titles and 100 victories against eight losses. After graduating high school, he traveled to Rome and won the light heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics.
Clay won his professional boxing debut on October 29, 1960, in a six-round decision. From the start of his pro career, the 6-foot-3-inch heavyweight overwhelmed his opponents with a combination of quick, powerful jabs and foot speed, and his constant braggadocio and self-promotion earned him the nickname “Louisville Lip.”
Muhammad Ali: Heavyweight Champion of the World
After winning his first 19 fights, including 15 knockouts, Clay received his first title shot on February 25, 1964, against reigning heavyweight champion Sonny Liston (1932-1970). Although he arrived in Miami Beach, Florida , a 7-1 underdog, the 22-year-old Clay relentlessly taunted Liston before the fight, promising to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” and predicting a knockout. When Liston failed to answer the bell at the start of the seventh round, Clay was indeed crowned heavyweight champion of the world. In the ring after the fight, the new champ roared, “I am the greatest!”
At a press conference the next morning, Clay, who had been seen around Miami with controversial Nation of Islam member Malcolm X (1925-1965), confirmed the rumors of his conversion to Islam. On March 6, 1964, Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad (1897-1975) bestowed on Clay the name of Muhammad Ali.
Ali solidified his hold on the heavyweight championship by knocking out Liston in the first round of their rematch on May 25, 1965, and he defended his title eight more times. Then, with the Vietnam War raging, Ali showed up for his scheduled induction into the U.S. Armed Forces on April 28, 1967. Citing his religious beliefs, he refused to serve. Ali was arrested, and the New York State Athletic Commission immediately suspended his boxing license and revoked his heavyweight belt.
Convicted of draft evasion, Ali was sentenced to the maximum of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine, but he remained free while the conviction was appealed. Many saw Ali as a draft dodger, and his popularity plummeted. Banned from boxing for three years, Ali spoke out against the Vietnam War on college campuses. As public attitudes turned against the war, support for Ali grew. In 1970 the New York State Supreme Court ordered his boxing license reinstated, and the following year the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction in a unanimous decision.
Muhammad Ali’s Return to the Ring
After 43 months in exile, Ali returned to the ring on October 26, 1970, and knocked out Jerry Quarry (1945-1999) in the third round. On March 8, 1971, Ali got his chance to regain his heavyweight crown against reigning champ Joe Frazier (1944-2011) in what was billed as the “Fight of the Century.” The undefeated Frazier floored Ali with a hard left hook in the final round. Ali got up but lost in a unanimous decision, experiencing his first defeat as a pro.
Ali won his next 10 bouts before being defeated by Ken Norton (1943-). He won the rematch six months later in a split decision and gained further revenge in a unanimous decision over Frazier in a non-title rematch. The victory gave the 32-year-old Ali a title shot against 25-year-old champion George Foreman (1949-). The October 30, 1974, fight in Kinshasa, Zaire, was dubbed the “Rumble in the Jungle.” Ali, the decided underdog, employed his “rope-a-dope” strategy, leaning on the ring ropes and absorbing a barrage of blows from Foreman while waiting for his opponent to tire. The strategy worked, and Ali won in an eighth-round knockout to regain the title stripped from him seven years prior.
Ali successfully defended his title in 10 fights, including the memorable “Thrilla in Manila” on October 1, 1975, in which his bitter rival Frazier, his eyes swollen shut, was unable to answer the bell for the final round. Ali also defeated Norton in their third meeting in a unanimous 15-round decision.
On February 15, 1978, an aging Ali lost his title to Leon Spinks (1953-) in a 15-round split decision. Seven months later, Ali defeated Spinks in a unanimous 15-round decision to reclaim the heavyweight crown and become the first fighter to win the world heavyweight boxing title three times. After announcing his retirement in 1979, Ali launched a brief, unsuccessful comeback. However, he was overwhelmed in a technical knockout loss to Larry Holmes (1949-) in 1980, and he dropped a unanimous 10-round decision to Trevor Berbick (1954-2006) on December 11, 1981. After the fight, the 39-year-old Ali retired for good with a career record of 56 wins, five losses and 37 knockouts.
Muhammad Ali’s Later Years and Legacy
In 1984 Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome, possibly connected to the severe head trauma suffered during his boxing career. The former champion’s motor skills slowly declined, and his movement and speech were limited. In spite of the Parkinson’s, Ali remained in the public spotlight, traveling the world to make humanitarian, goodwill and charitable appearances. He met with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (1937-2006) in 1990 to negotiate the release of American hostages, and in 2002 he traveled to Afghanistan as a United Nations Messenger of Peace.
Ali had the honor of lighting the cauldron during the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. In 1999 Ali was voted the BBC’s “Sporting Personality of the Century,” and Sports Illustrated named him “Sportsman of the Century.” Ali was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a 2005 White House ceremony, and in the same year the $60 million Muhammad Ali Center, a nonprofit museum and cultural center focusing on peace and social responsibility, opened in Louisville.
Ring Magazine named Ali “Fighter of the Year” five times, more than any other boxer, and he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. Ali has been married four times and has seven daughters and two sons. He married his fourth wife, Yolanda, in 1986. Ali died at the age of 74 on June 3, 2016.
Sign up for Inside History
Get HISTORY’s most fascinating stories delivered to your inbox three times a week.
By submitting your information, you agree to receive emails from HISTORY and A+E Networks. You can opt out at any time. You must be 16 years or older and a resident of the United States.
We may earn commission from links on this page, but we only recommend products we back.
Muhammad Ali was a three-time heavyweight boxing champion with an impressive 56-win record. He was also known for his public stance against the Vietnam War.
Olympic gold, relationship with malcolm x and conversion to islam, vietnam war protest and supreme court case, muhammad ali’s boxing record, wives, children, and family boxing legacy, parkinson’s diagnosis, philanthropy, muhammad ali center, declining health and death, funeral and memorial service, movies about muhammad ali, who was muhammad ali.
Muhammad Ali was a boxer, philanthropist, and social activist who is universally regarded as one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. Ali became an Olympic gold medalist in 1960 and the world heavyweight boxing champion in 1964. Following his suspension for refusing military service in the Vietnam War, Ali reclaimed the heavyweight title two more times during the 1970s, winning famed bouts against Joe Frazier and George Foreman along the way. Ali retired from boxing in 1981 and devoted much of his time after to philanthropy. He earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
FULL NAME: Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. BORN: January 17, 1942 DIED: June 3, 2016 BIRTHPLACE: Louisville, Kentucky SPOUSES: Sonji Roi (1964-1965), Belinda Boyd (1967-1977), Veronica Porché (1977-1986), and Yolanda Williams (1986-2016) CHILDREN: Maryum, Jamillah, Rasheda, Muhammad Jr., Miya, Khaliah, Hana, Laila Ali , and Asaad ASTROLOGICAL SIGN: Capricorn
Muhammad Ali was born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. His birth name was Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.
At an early age, young Clay showed that he wasn’t afraid of any bout—inside or outside of the ring. Growing up in the segregated South, he experienced racial prejudice and discrimination firsthand.
At the age of 12, Clay discovered his talent for boxing through an odd twist of fate. After his bike was stolen, Clay told police officer Joe Martin that he wanted to beat up the thief. “Well, you better learn how to fight before you start challenging people,” Martin reportedly told him at the time. In addition to being a police officer, Martin also trained young boxers at a local gym.
Clay started working with Martin to learn how to spar and soon began his boxing career. In his first amateur bout in 1954, he won the fight by split decision. Clay went on to win the 1956 Golden Gloves tournament for novices in the light heavyweight class. Three years later, he won the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions, as well as the Amateur Athletic Union’s national title for the light heavyweight division.
Clay attended mostly Black public schools, including Central High School in Louisville from 1956 to 1960. Clay often daydreamed in class and shadowboxed in the halls—he was training for the 1960 Olympics at the time—and his grades were so bad that some of his teachers wanted to hold him back from graduation. However, the school’s principal Atwood Wilson could see Clay’s potential and opposed this, sarcastically asking the staff, “Do you think I’m going to be the principal of a school that Cassius Clay didn’t finish?”
In 1960, Clay won a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team and traveled to Rome to compete. At 6 feet, 3 inches tall, Clay was an imposing figure in the ring, but he also became known for his lightning speed and fancy footwork. After winning his first three bouts, Clay defeated Zbigniew Pietrzkowski of Poland to win the light heavyweight Olympic gold medal.
After his Olympic victory, Clay was heralded as an American hero. He soon turned professional with the backing of the Louisville Sponsoring Group and continued overwhelming all opponents in the ring.
Clay met charismatic Nation of Islam minister Malcolm X at a rally in Detroit in June 1962. Floored by Malcolm X’s fearlessness as an orator, the two developed a friendship and Clay became more involved in the Black Muslim group. Malcolm X even assigned an associate to help manage Clay’s day-to-day affairs.
In 1964, Malcolm X brought his family to visit Clay while he trained in Florida for his February 25 title fight against Sonny Liston . Clay’s victory over Liston earned him his first world heavyweight boxing championship. Following the win, the two held an evening of reflection in a hotel room with Jim Brown and Sam Cooke that became the inspiration for the One Night in Miami stage play and 2020 drama film.
The next morning, on February 26, Clay announced his affiliation with the Nation of Islam. At first, he called himself Cassius X before settling on the name Muhammad Ali. Surprisingly, his allegiances were with supreme leader Elijah Muhammad and not the exiled Malcolm X. Ali and Malcolm’s friendship quickly fractured, and the two went their separate ways by that spring.
Ali showed little remorse upon Malcolm X’s murder on February 21, 1965, but admitted in his 2005 memoir Soul of a Butterfly : “Turning my back on Malcolm was one of the mistakes that I regret most in my life.”
The boxer eventually converted to orthodox Islam during the 1970s.
Ali started a different kind of fight with his outspoken views against the Vietnam War. Drafted into the military in April 1967, he refused to serve on the grounds that he was a practicing Muslim minister with religious beliefs that prevented him from fighting. He was arrested for committing a felony and almost immediately stripped of his world title and boxing license.
The U.S. Justice Department pursued a legal case against Ali and denied his claim for conscientious objector status. He was found guilty of violating Selective Service laws and sentenced to five years in prison in June 1967 but remained free while appealing his conviction.
Unable to compete professionally in the meantime, Ali missed more than three prime years of his athletic career. Following his suspension, Ali found refuge on Chicago’s South Side, where he lived from the mid-1960s through the late 1970s. He continued training, formed amateur boxing leagues, and fought whomever he could in local gyms.
Finally granted a license to fight in 1970 in Georgia, which did not have a statewide athletic commission, Ali returned to the ring at Atlanta’s City Auditorium on October 26 with a win over Jerry Quarry. A few months later, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction in June 1971, allowing Ali to fight on a regular basis.
Ali had a career record of 56 wins, five losses, and 37 knockouts before his retirement in 1981 at the age of 39.
Often referring to himself as “The Greatest,” Ali was not afraid to sing his own praises. He was known for boasting about his skills before a fight and for his colorful descriptions and phrases. In one of his more famously quoted descriptions, Ali told reporters that he could “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” in the boxing ring.
A few of his more well-known bouts include the following:
After winning gold at the 1960 Olympics, Ali took out British heavyweight champion Henry Cooper in 1963. He then knocked out Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964, to become the heavyweight champion of the world.
On March 8, 1971, Ali took on Joe Frazier in what has been called the “Fight of the Century.” Frazier and Ali went toe-to-toe for 14 rounds before Frazier dropped Ali with a vicious left hook in the 15th. Ali recovered quickly, but the judges awarded the decision to Frazier, handing Ali his first professional loss after 31 wins.
After suffering a loss to Ken Norton, Ali beat Frazier in a rematch on January 28, 1974.
In 1975, Ali and Frazier locked horns again for their grudge match on October 1 in Quezon City, Philippines. Dubbed the “Thrilla in Manila,” the bout nearly went the distance, with both men delivering and absorbing tremendous punishment. However, Frazier’s trainer threw in the towel after the 14th round, giving the hard-fought victory to Ali.
Another legendary Ali fight took place on October 30, 1974, against undefeated heavyweight champion George Foreman . Billed as the “Rumble in the Jungle,” the bout was organized by promoter Don King and held in Kinshasa, Zaire.
For once, Ali was seen as the underdog to the younger, massive Foreman, but he silenced his critics with a masterful performance. He baited Foreman into throwing wild punches with his “rope-a-dope” technique, before stunning his opponent with an eighth-round knockout to reclaim the heavyweight title.
After losing his title to Leon Spinks on February 15, 1978, Ali defeated him months later in a rematch on September 15. Ali became the first boxer to win the heavyweight championship three times.
Following a brief retirement, Ali returned to the ring to face Larry Holmes on October 2, 1980, but was overmatched against the younger champion.
Following one final loss in 1981, to Trevor Berbick, the boxing great retired from the sport at age 39.
Ali was married four times and had nine children, including two children—daughters Miya and Khaliah—he fathered outside of marriage.
Ali married his first wife, Sonji Roi, in 1964. They divorced a little more than one year later when she refused to adopt the Nation of Islam dress and customs.
Ali married his second wife, 17-year-old Belinda Boyd, in 1967. Boyd and Ali had four children together: Maryum, born in 1969; Jamillah and Rasheda, both born in 1970; and Muhammad Ali Jr., born in 1972. Boyd and Ali’s divorce was finalized in 1977.
At the same time Ali was married to Boyd, he traveled openly with Veronica Porché, who became his third wife in 1977. The pair had two daughters together, Hana and Laila Ali . The latter followed in Ali’s footsteps by becoming a champion boxer. Porché and Ali divorced in 1986.
Ali married his fourth and final wife Yolanda, who went by Lonnie, in 1986. The pair had known each other since Lonnie was just 6 and Ali was 21; their mothers were best friends and raised their families on the same street. Ali and Lonnie had one son together, Asaad, and remained married until Ali’s death.
Rasheda’s son Nico Walsh Ali became a boxer like his grandfather and aunt. In 2021, he signed a deal with legendary Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who promoted 27 of Muhammad Ali’s bouts. He won his first eight professional fights, according to database BoxRec.
Nico’s brother, Biaggio Ali Walsh, was a star football running back, helping lead national powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas to the top of the USA Today rankings from 2014 through 2016. He played collegiately at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before becoming an amateur mixed martial artist.
The brothers have drawn the attention of social media celebrity Jake Paul, a novice boxer who has said he’d like to fight both and “erase” them.
One of Ali’s other grandsons, Jacob Ali-Wertheimer, competed in NCAA track and field at Harvard University and graduated in 2021.
In 1984, Ali announced that he had Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative neurological condition. Despite the progression of Parkinson’s and the onset of spinal stenosis, he remained active in public life.
Ali raised funds for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix, Arizona. And he was on hand to celebrate the inauguration of the first Black president in January 2009, when Barack Obama was sworn into office.
In his retirement, Ali devoted much of his time to philanthropy. Over the years, Ali supported the Special Olympics and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, among other organizations. In 1996, he lit the Olympic cauldron at the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, an emotional moment in sports history.
Ali traveled to numerous countries, including Mexico and Morocco, to help out those in need. In 1998, he was chosen to be a United Nations Messenger of Peace because of his work in developing nations.
In 2005, Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush .
Ali also received the President’s Award from the NAACP in 2009 for his public service efforts. Other recipients of the award have included include Ella Fitzgerald , Venus and Serena Williams , Kerry Washington , Spike Lee , John Legend , Rihanna , and LeBron James .
Ali opened the Muhammad Ali Center , a multicultural center with a museum dedicated to his life and legacy, in his hometown of Louisville in 2005.
“I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given,” he said. “Many fans wanted to build a museum to acknowledge my achievements. I wanted more than a building to house my memorabilia. I wanted a place that would inspire people to be the best that they could be at whatever they chose to do, and to encourage them to be respectful of one another.”
Ali lived the final decade of his live in the Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley, Arizona.
A few years before his death, Ali underwent surgery for spinal stenosis, a condition causing the narrowing of the spine, which limited his mobility and ability to communicate. In early 2015, he battled pneumonia and was hospitalized for a severe urinary tract infection.
Ali died on June 3, 2016, in Scottsdale, Arizona, after being hospitalized for what was reportedly a respiratory issue. He was 74 years old.
Years before his passing, Ali had planned his own memorial services, saying he wanted to be “inclusive of everyone, where we give as many people an opportunity that want to pay their respects to me,” according to a family spokesman.
The three-day event, which took place in Ali’s hometown of Louisville, included an “I Am Ali” public arts festival, entertainment and educational offerings sponsored by the city, an Islamic prayer program, and a memorial service.
Prior to the memorial service, a funeral procession traveled 20 miles through Louisville, past Ali’s childhood home, his high school, the first boxing gym where he trained, and along Ali Boulevard as tens of thousands of fans tossed flowers on his hearse and cheered his name.
The champ’s memorial service was held at the KFC Yum Center arena with close to 20,000 people in attendance. Speakers included religious leaders from various faiths: Attallah Shabazz, Malcolm X’s eldest daughter; broadcaster Bryant Gumbel; former President Bill Clinton ; comedian Billy Crystal; Ali’s daughters Maryum and Rasheda; and his widow, Lonnie.
“Muhammad indicated that when the end came for him, he wanted us to use his life and his death as a teaching moment for young people, for his country, and for the world,” Lonnie said. “In effect, he wanted us to remind people who are suffering that he had seen the face of injustice—that he grew up during segregation and that during his early life he was not free to be who he wanted to be. But he never became embittered enough to quit or to engage in violence.”
Clinton spoke about how Ali found self-empowerment: “I think he decided, before he could possibly have worked it all out, and before fate and time could work their will on him, he decided he would not ever be disempowered. He decided that not his race, nor his place, the expectations of others—positive, negative, or otherwise—would strip from him the power to write his own story.”
Crystal, who was a struggling comedian when he became friends with Ali, said of the boxing legend: “Ultimately, he became a silent messenger for peace, who taught us that life is best when you build bridges between people, not walls.”
Pallbearers included Will Smith , who once portrayed Ali on film, and former heavyweight champions Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis. Ali is buried at the Cave Hill National Cemetery in Louisville.
Ali’s stature as a legend continues to grow even after his death. He is celebrated not only for his remarkable athletic skills but for his willingness to speak his mind and his courage to challenge the status quo.
Ali played himself in the 1977 film The Greatest , which explored parts of his life such as his rise to boxing fame, conversion to Islam, and refusal to serve in Vietnam.
The 1996 documentary When We Were Kings explores Ali’s training process for his 1974 fight against George Foreman and the African political climate at the time. Directed by Leon Gast, the film won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
Actor Will Smith played Ali in the biopic film Ali, released in 2001. For the performance, Smith received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Ali’s relationship with Malcolm X is explored in the fictionalized 2020 drama One Night in Miami and the 2021 documentary Blood Brothers: Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali .
- The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.
- It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.
- I’m gonna float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.
- I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given.
- I’m the champion of the world. I’m the greatest thing that ever lived. I’m so great I don’t have a mark on my face. I shook up the world! I shook up the world!
- If Clay says a mosquito can pull a plow, don’t ask how—Hitch him up!
- You get the impression while watching him fight that he plays cat and mouse, then turns out the light.
- The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people, or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom, and equality.
- Religions all have different names, but they all contain the same truths. I think the people of our religion should be tolerant and understand people believe different things.
- It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.
- I set out on a journey of love, seeking truth, peace, and understanding. l am still learning.
- Truly great people in history never wanted to be great for themselves.
- At night when I go to bed, I ask myself, “If I don’t wake up tomorrow, would I be proud of how I lived today?”
- This is the story about a man with iron fists and a beautiful tan.
Fact Check: We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn’t look right, contact us !
The Biography.com staff is a team of people-obsessed and news-hungry editors with decades of collective experience. We have worked as daily newspaper reporters, major national magazine editors, and as editors-in-chief of regional media publications. Among our ranks are book authors and award-winning journalists. Our staff also works with freelance writers, researchers, and other contributors to produce the smart, compelling profiles and articles you see on our site. To meet the team, visit our About Us page: https://www.biography.com/about/a43602329/about-us
Tyler Piccotti joined the Biography.com staff in 2023, and before that had worked almost eight years as a newspaper reporter and copy editor. He is a graduate of Syracuse University, an avid sports fan, a frequent moviegoer, and trivia buff.
10 Things You Might Not Know About Travis Kelce