If I had to choose a legend in the world of boxing, this title would definitely belong to Muhammad Ali, as no other person stayed even barely close to the great man of all times. “ Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” is an expression, that became Muhammad Ali’s calling card, and later was developed into a boxing tactics for many amateurs and professionals.
The story of Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. (Muhammad Ali’s real name) is not a legend of a boy from a poor family, who decided to use the help of professional sports in order to avoid poverty. His parents earned quite well; moreover, his beautiful mother taught him drawing, and Clay’s father instilled him love for good poetry.
When Clay was 12, he received a new bicycle as a present; and later it became a reason of his first fight. Neither weight nor age categories of the boys did coincide completely; therefore a little Clay left without a vehicle, but with a huge black eye. After the first knockdown in his life, the boy had come to complain about the issue to the local policeman, who advised kid to play sports, and even taught him the basic striking techniques. Later Muhammad mentioned, “ boxing was just a means to introduce him to the world” (Muhammadali. com).
A couple of years, Clay has brazenly showed up to the coach Angelo Dundee, who was gaining popularity. Later, the coach recalled how annoyed he was because of the overbearing teenager, who was confident enough to plan becoming an Olympic champion, and the world champion among professionals within a few years. When Dundee saw Ali’s work on the ring, all his doubts were dispelled, and a native-born genius was standing in front of him. Ali grasped any new information within seconds; he had a tremendous speed, and so delicate art of movement in the legs no boxer could reach.
Ali’s world’s success had started with the victory in the amateur tournament ” Golden Gloves” in 1959. A year later, as promised, Muhammad won the gold at the Summer Olympics in Rome. Young boxer’s career continued developing by two-years cycle. In two years after he received a victory over his first mentor in professional boxing, Cassius Clay became the undisputed champion of the world.
During this period he had also started creating his own unique style of boxing. He asked his brother and army buddies to throw stones at him from close range, so that he could learn how to dodge them. Moreover, in the battle with his opponents, he often ” danced” on the ring, standing in front of a person with his hands down. This boastful style caused a lot of negative reviews from professional boxers, but Muhammad had attracted public attention.
Despite the victories, the sportsman didn’t immediately earn the honor and respect at home. In his memoirs Muhammad bitterly recalled, how after the Olympics a waiter refused to serve him in one of the snack bars in Louisville because of the color of his skin. This incident was only one of those, which raised the protest again racism in Ali’s soul.
Ali’s mother also recollected an occasion from his childhood, “ I remember one time when Cassius was small. We were downtown at a five-and-ten-cents store. He wanted a drink of water, and they wouldn’t give him one because of his color. That really affected him. He didn’t like that at all, being a child and thirsty. He started crying, and I said, ‘ Come on; I’ll take you someplace and get you some water.’ But it really hurt him” (Hauser).
Therefore, a young and promising athlete has been noticed by religious organizations that fought for the rights of black people in the United States. Clay, who could easily be affected by the idea, became a member of a religious organization ” Nation of Islam”. The leaders of organization had immediately picked him a new name – Muhammad Ali, as in honor of the Prophet Mohammed.
This rather unexpected step of the boxer scared a part of his loyal fans, as he started promoting the superiority of black Americans over white; he also began preaching the basics of Islam, and demanded fights organizers to announce him with a new name.
At first, Ali had to be fined for arbitrariness, and all his titles meant to be taken. But after winning several cases, he returned to the ring. With his new name the boxer won many world titles and got dozens of victories at the professional ring. Over the years, the boxer lost a significant share of his radicalism and became more compliant in views and expressions. A well-known critic Eric Fleury had mentioned, “ even the briefest glimpse at Ali’s life and career reveals not a saintly hero for the oppressed, but a vicious and cynical manipulator who used race as a cudgel to hammer whites and blacks alike, while shamelessly donning the mantle of racial justice for himself, and himself alone“ (Fleury).
In 1960, a great athlete enlisted to the US Army. In 1964, a few weeks before his debut match for the world title – the first fight with Sonny Liston, Ali was summoned to the recruiting station, where he had to take a medical examination and IQ test. Despite his health was in perfect condition, Ali’s IQ was found to be 78, which was 14 points less than the lower straps to allow the passage of active duty in the US Army. A few years later the laws were changed, and according to all amount of points, a sportsman was confessed for active duty.
Ali’s first problems with conducting fights in the United States began after public statements of refusal to serve in Vietnam. Because of refusal to perform military service, the court’s final decision was a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $10 thousand fine. In addition, his sports career was frozen; Ali was stripped of the world title, and couldn’t conduct any fight on the US territory. His passport was taken away, so the boxer was deprived of the possibility to legally leave the country. Ramsey Clark had mentioned, that “ the government didn’t need Ali to fight the war, but they would have loved to put him in the service; get his picture in there; maybe give him a couple of stripes on his sleeve, and take him all over the world. Think of the power that would have had in Africa, Asia, and South America” (Hauser).
During this time, the attitude of most Americans towards the war in Vietnam was radically changed. Although many former fans of Ali’s boxing talent and have not forgiven him the refusal of military service, but Mohammed have never regretted about his decision, as well as about the price paid for it. Thomas Hauser, a friend and official biographer of Muhammad had mentioned, that the sportsman always stood for his principles: “ People know that he stood up for his principles, but they really don’t know what his principles were. Really, to fully appreciate what he meant, you almost had to live through his times – and every day pick up the newspaper to find something about this man” (Reid).
During his career, Muhammad Ali earned about $50 million, which was just a sky-high sum that time. However, the boxer disposed his finances frankly mediocrely, by wasted the budget on his surroundings. Due to the lack of money, Mohammed was forced to re-enter the ring in 1980. At this moment, his opponent was the reigning champion Larry Holmes, who confidently beat the sportsman; legendary boxer looked frankly pathetic. Despite this fact, Mohammed still received about eight million dollars for the match. At this time, the money he earned was invested into the business and real estate. However, despite the financial success in 1981, the boxer stepped on the ring again. In his last battle with the Canadian heavyweight Trevor Berbick he looked better, but still lost.
For more than thirty years, Ali is competing with a Parkinson’s disease, a severe illness of the central nervous system. His limbs are shaking; it is hard for him to even talk, he utters the words so quietly that they barely audible, the famous boxer is very tired after a ten-minute speech and can suddenly fall asleep in the middle of the conversation. According to doctors, the cause of Muhammad Ali’s Parkinson’s disease is in numerous heavy blows he received during the bright boxing career.
Mohammed had four wives in his life. With the first one he had converged in his youth, but soon the couple broke up because of woman’s unwillingness to accept Islam. The marriage to a second wife Belinda Boyd (later – Khalil Ali) lasted longer and led to the birth of four children. Despite this, Cassius Clay began to twist an affair with model Veronica Porsche already during the marriage. It was mentioned in mane sources, that Veronica was not the only mistress of the boxer. Anyway, the couple got married in 1977 and had two children. This union lasted for nine years; after the divorce a legendary boxer married longtime girlfriend Iolanthe Williams, and in a while they adopted a five year old boy.
Today Ali has eight children from all the marriages. The champion lives at a ranch in Michigan, raises a foster son and put a lot of efforts and resources to charity, despite his own progressing Parkinson’s disease.
Otheralexreid [Reid, Alex]. ‘Muhammad Misunderstood: Unravelling The Ali Myth’. talkSPORT. N. p., 2014. Web. 13 July 2015.
Hauser, Thomas. ‘The Importance Of Muhammad Ali | The Gilder Lehrman Institute Of American History’. Gilderlehrman. org. N. p., 2009. Web. 13 July 2015.
Muhammadali. com,. ‘The Man | Ali’. N. p., 2015. Web. 13 July 2015.
Fleury, Eric. ‘Muhammad Ali And The Myth Of A Civil Rights Hero’. Bleacher Report. N. p., 2009. Web. 13 July 2015.