Muhammad Ali Passes Away at 74 Years Old
Muhammad Ali, largely considered the greatest boxer of all time, passed away Friday at the age of 74 from complications due to Parkinson’s Disease.
Ali blended charisma and skill to become boxing’s most recognizable figure in the 1960’s. He not only influenced other boxers in the decades that followed, but he also left an impression on society as a whole.
Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, Kentucky. He won the light heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Olympics in Rome and began his professional career immediately afterwards. After battling through the ranks, he received his first title shot against the undefeated champion, Sonny Liston, in 1964. Ali entered the fight as the underdog, but stunned the world by defeating Liston and winning his first title at the age of 22.
Ali and Liston would have two more fights, with Ali coming out victorious both times, cementing his legitimacy as the heavyweight champion. He defended the title until 1967, when both the title and his boxing license were stripped due to Ali’s refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam War due to his religious beliefs. He was convicted of a felony and would not fight for four years. His conviction was overturned in 1971 and Ali began to build his reputation back up, eyeing the belt he claimed he never lost.
Ali eventually got a shot at heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, but was handed his first professional defeat in what was called “The Fight of The Century”. After Frazier dropped the belt to George Foreman, Ali would challenge the champ to one of boxing’s most iconic fights, “The Rumble In The Jungle.” Ali would come out victorious, reclaiming the title and his spot as boxing’s most popular fighter. Ali and Frazier met again for the title in the “Thrilla In Manilla,” with Ali avenging his loss against Frazier and retaining the title.
Ali would lose the title to Leon Spinks in 1978, but regain it later that year. He would then go on to lose one-sided fights against Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick before retiring in 1981. Soon after his retirement, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and became an ambassador for boxing.
A Personality That Will Be Remembered
Along with his extraordinary boxing career, Ali will be remembered as a brash, often outspoken showman. Many of his signature phrases are still popular today and have changed the way athletes interact with the media. Watch any press conference put on by the UFC and you can see Ali’s influence all over it. He was vocal in his criticism of his opponents, providing “bulletin board material” far before there was a recognized name for it.
Ali shattered the preconceived way an athlete carried themselves both in their sport and with the press. Thank God he did, because this would be a boring job if we didn’t have over-the-top personalities to talk about.
When asked how he wanted to be remembered, he said he wanted to be remembered as a man “who never looked down on those who looked up to him…who stood up for his beliefs…who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love. And if that’s too much, then I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people. And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.”
It’s safe to say he won’t be forgotten. And we’ll never forget just how pretty he was.
(Muhammad Ali Passes Away) (Muhammad Ali Passes Away)