There have been many legends in sports. There have been many great activists. There have been a few of these combined. One of these we lost a few days ago. He was none other than Muhammad Ali.
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., Ali took the amateur boxing world by storm winning multiple Kentucky Golden Gloves as well as National Golden Gloves. He also brought a Light Heavyweight gold back from the Summer Olympics held in Rome in 1960 although at present his gold medal lies in the depths of Ohio river. What is the reason behind this? We will get to that part later.
Just like amateur boxing, Muhammad Ali blazed into the scene of professional boxing. He quickly established himself as a big shot when he won a dozen and a half matches at a stretch. Of these he knocked out 15 of his opponents. He ultimately went on to become the heavy weight champion in 1964 defeating Sonny Liston. Doing this he became the youngest boxer to take the belt from a reigning heavyweight champion at the age of 22, though the record for youngest heavyweight champion at the time was Floyd Patterson at the age of 21 who got the belt when his opponent retired out of their match. Both these records were subsequently broken by Mike Tyson in 1986 when he won the belt at the age of 20.
Ali dubbed himself as ‘the Greatest’ and used to successfully justify the same in every match. In 1967 on the heels of a successful title defense, Muhammad Ali was stripped of his titles and boxing license when he refused to join the Army to fight in the Vietnam war. He appealed against the decision which was later overturned after four years granting his boxing license back.
Ali continued to verbally and physically assault his opponents in the process gaining a few enemies on his way to glory. In his professional boxing career, he was crowned three times the world heavyweight champion before finally hanging up his gloves in 1981.
Other than a professional boxer, Ali was a well known activist. He despised the racism that existed in his home country. After an altercation with a restaurant that allowed white people only, Ali got frustrated and threw his Olympic medal he earned for his country in the Ohio river.
He made his dissent about Vietnam war vocal which even affected his boxing career for four years. His refusal to be drafted into the US Army inspired countless others including Martin Luther King Jr. who started protesting against the war. Muhammad Ali went on to achieve a great amount of things as a social activist after his retirement from boxing including saving a man’s life from jumping off a building. He even went to Iraq during the Gulf War to negotiate the release of American hostages.
Muhammad Ali has cemented his status as a legend in both the boxing world as well as the activism world. He utilized his popularity to educate the world about the causes he believed in. He truly left his mark on the world like no one ever has and no one ever can.