Birth of ‘The King Of Boxing’
Muhammed Ali is a big name in the arena of boxing. He is a universal idol for many boxers even today. He still has a huge fan following and is remembered by many. Named after his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., later known as Muhammed Ali, was born on the 17th of January, in 1942. He was born in a Christian household, to Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. and Odessa Grady Clay. Born and brought up in Louisville, Kentucky, he did his schooling from Central High School and was dyslexic.
Tracing his familial history, it was found, that he’s a from the lineage of slaves, who were brought to the USA during the 18th century, a period known as the Antebellum South. During this period, the state economy flourished drastically, due to the excessive dependence on slaves.
While Ali’s mother was a house helper, his father painted signs and hoardings and they managed a decent house, in a good black area. Clay senior was a Methodist but Odessa was a Baptist and she raised her kids that way. The family often faced discrimination, as Odessa described an incident when Ali was not allowed to drink the water due to his ethnicity and color. He clearly used to get affected by this, which eventually led him to annihilate a train yard. The image of Whites got embossed in his head as ‘White Rapists’, after his father revealed images of a black teen, killed brutally. He became politically active too in his career and significantly represented the African-American Muslims of the states.
The lauded Muhammed Ali, is undoubtedly one of the best sportsperson of the 20th century and greatest boxers, hence the nickname, ‘The Greatest’.
His budding interest in boxing can be traced back to the year 1954 when Ali was just 12 and got his bike stolen. He was all set to avenge his loss, by thrashing the thieves red and blue until he met a policeman named Joe Martin, also a boxing trainer, who divulged him to boxing. Joe wanted Ali to learn the technique before getting onto business, business referring to the beating Ali wanted to give the thieves.
Ali saw some boxers on television which encouraged him to learn the skill. He was trained by Fred Stoner and then Chuck Bodak during his amateur trainee years.
During his layman fighting years, he witnessed a hundred wins and lost only five fights. His first dilettante debut match was played against a local trainee boxer, which Ali won. After this he went on winning numerous titles and awards, Light Heavyweight gold medal, golden gloves title, to name a few.
Ali’s first debut as a professional was a duel with Tunney Hunsaker, who also served as West Virginias’ police chief. It occurred in 1960, on 29th October. While Ali was all charged up and referred Tunny as ‘loafer’, Tunny claimed that it was an honor to share the ring with him and he has the potential to become a world champion.
Now Ali needed a trainer, he approached Archie Moore but eventually left his camp as Moore wouldn’t fight him because he was an amateur and would assign Ali petty chores. Ali then hired Angelo Dundee, paying him dollar 125 weekly, although he wanted Sugar Ray Robinson for the job but got disdained. Dundee was apt, he respected Ali’s personality and made sure that he didn’t direct him or tried to control him. Under Dundee, Ali won numerous matches. He won against renowned boxers like Jim Robinson, Henry Cooper and even defeated Archie Moore.
One of his toughest matches was against Doug Jones, who got defeated in his own hometown because of which, this win of Ali’s, was greeted with boos and negative hooting by the audience.
Ali definitely had hatred against the whites for discriminating against him and his community and exploiting them. When Ali was still a teen, a man selling newspapers caught his sight. What was different about the man was the content that he was selling. It was about the ‘Nation Of Islam’ and its notions being used for black empowerment. The man was none other than Elijah Muhammad, a religious leader, founder of NOI and the spiritual guru for Ali, Malcom X, Louis Farrakhan and more. It was a cartoon in his paper, that caught most of Ali’s attention. The cartoon depicted a black slave being forced and whupped into praying to Jesus. Ali later revealed that it made most sense to him. He could relate to it and could feel the picture. It made him question his present notions regarding his religion, and realize that Christianity was forced upon him and his community by the enslavers. It was never chosen by him or his ancestors.
Ali first heard about the NOI in 1959, attended the first meeting during 1961 and finally converted in 1975 when the leader of NOI, Elijah passed away. He became a Sunni Muslim. He faced a lot of criticism and it was believed by the opposers that he was brainwashed and indoctrinated on religious grounds but despite that, he was firm in his opinion and embraced Islam with utter respect and devotion.
Fight of the century
Fight of the century was an iconic battle between two undefeated kings of the boxing world, Mohammed Ali and Frazier. The latter, during the time of Ali’s exile from the boxing world, won the title of World Heavyweight Champion and the fight was held in order to figure out who, amongst the two is the true champion, as the title belonged to both with full legitimacy. Frazier was more prevailing at that time and superior to Ali. Ali’s return caused a lot of puff, for the two being set up against each other.
The battle was won by Frazier and it was said that how Ali was knocked down, is the hardest a man can be hit. This was Ali’s first professional defeat. This was not all. Two more fights occurred, creating a trilogy, Super Fight ll and Thrilla In Manila, in 1974 and 1975 respectively where Ali won.