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Muhammad Ali is considered one of the greatest athletes in boxing history, winning both the coveted Golden Gloves title and an Olympic gold medal, among several other honors.
Watch a short video about Muhammad Ali and discover how he accidentally discovered his calling as a world class boxer.
Muhammad Ali talks about his "Rumble in the Jungle" bout with George Foreman in 1974.
Hana Ali, George Foreman, and Thomas Hauser, author of "Muhammad Ali: His Life and Time," describe Muhammad Ali's bold personality, his evolving religious views, and his outspoken activism. Video courtesy of Open Road Media.
A short biography of Muhammad Ali, an American heavyweight boxer and social activist who converted to Islam. Dodging the Vietnam draft, he was the subject of controversy.
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Boxer, philanthropist and social activist Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. Ali became a Golden Gloves champion in 1959, and became an Olympic gold medalist the following year. Ali won all of his bouts in the 1960s, the majority of them by knockout. Since his retirement, Ali has devoted much of his time to philanthropy.
"The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life."
Boxer, philanthropist and social activist Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. Considered one of the greatest athletes in boxing history, Ali showed at an early age that he wasn't afraid of any bout—inside or outside of the ring. Growing up in the segregated South, Ali experienced racial prejudice and discrimination firsthand, which likely contributed to his early passion for boxing.
At the age of 12, Ali discovered his talent for boxing through an odd twist of fate. His bike was stolen, and Ali told a 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.
Ali started working with Martin to learn how to box, and soon began his boxing career. In his first amateur bout in 1954, he won the fight by split decision. Ali 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.
In 1960, Ali won a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team. He traveled to Rome, Italy, to compete. At 6 feet 3 inches tall, Ali was an imposing figure in the ring. He was known for his footwork, and for possessing a powerful jab. After winning his first three bouts, Ali then defeated Zbigniew Pietrzkowski from Poland to win the gold medal.
After his Olympic victory, Ali was heralded as an American hero. He soon turned professional with the backing of the Louisville Sponsoring Group. During the 1960s Ali seemed unstoppable, winning all of his bouts with majority of them being by knockouts. He took out British heavyweight champion Henry Cooper in 1963 and then knocked out Sonny Liston in 1964 to become the heavyweight champion of the world.
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.
This bold public persona belied what was happening in Ali's personal life, however. He was doing some spiritual searching and decided to join the black Muslim group, the Nation of Islam, in 1964. At first, he called himself "Cassius X," eventually settling on the name Muhammad Ali.
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In entertainment, where the line between fiction and reality is often blurry, names are a crucial part of a celebrity's image. Stage names are often chosen to make an actor or musician's name easier to pronounce or remember, or simply to make it sounds more attractive. Here are famous celebrities who have changed their names.
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