Muhammad Ali, an Olympic champion and veteran of 61 heavyweight fights spanning three decades, has passed away at the age of 74. Since 1984, Ali had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, to which many believe was the result of his boxing career. He considered by many to be greatest heavyweight boxer of all time.
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, Ky., on Jan. 17, 1942, but his beginnings in boxing didn’t start unit his bike was stolen at the age of 12. Wanting justice, he found policeman Joe Martin in a nearby gym and told him he was going to “whup” whoever stole his bike. Martin, who taught kids how to box in spare time, told him he should learn to box first.
Clay eventually became a Olympic Light-Heavyweight Champion, and then defeated World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Sonny Liston at age 22 to become one of the youngest boxing champions in history. Clay caused controversy when he converted to Islam and rejected his birth name as his “slave name,” and became known as Muhammad Ali.
Ali’s refusal to be drafted in the Vietnam War cost his title and his boxing license for three years, but he eventually got a shot at the current Heayweight Champion at Joe Frazier. Ali lost by unanimous decision, and Frazier would later lose the title by second round knockout to the powerful George Foreman. Ali not only came back to win a decision over Frazier, but would also knockout Foreman to regain the heavyweight title in the fight known as the “Rumble in the Jungle.”
Ali would defeat Frazier in the Philippines in some the consider to be the greatest heavyweight fight that was called “The Thrilla in Manila.” Besides Frazier, Ali also had three grueling fights with former interim champion Ken Norton. Norton won their first fight by split decision and broke Ali’s jaw. Ali would come back to win the next two fights, by only by close split-decisions.