Cassius Clay is a slave name. I didn’t choose it and I don’t want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free name – it means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me.
– Muhammad Alli
Muhammad Alli, born on January 17, 1942 and died on June 3, 2016, aged 74 is a legend both in the ring and off the ring.
Aside from his ability to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, he was eloquent and humanitarian as well. He began training at a very tender age and won world heavyweight championship from Sunny Liston in 1974 at the age of 22. He was an Olympic gold medalist winner.
Among his feats were being the first fighter to capture the heavyweight title three times. Ali won 56 times in his 21-year professional career.
Do you know that Alli was named after his father. Hence, his name Cassius Clay Jr. However, he referred to himself as Muhammad X before changing his name to Muhammad Alli. This was because he found a new religion, Islam (which he discovered in 1965).
He was convicted in 1967, stripped of his heavyweight championship and banned for 3 years for refusing military induction to fight in Vietnam. His reasons:
My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father… Shoot them for what? How am I going to shoot them? Poor little black people, little babies, and children, women. How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.
He was refused membership into the Nation of Islam (NOI) till 1975, when had proved his stance for civil and public rights.
Alli was diagnosed with Parkinson disease in 1984. The disease which he lived with till his death.
Among his notable quotes are:
“Man, you’re almost pretty enough to play me.” Directed at Will Smith before playing the boxer in the legendary film ALLI in 2001
“I don’t always know what I’m talking about but I know I’m right.”
“My toughest fight was with my first wife.”
“There are more pleasant things to do than beat up people.”
“Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer.”
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
“My face is so pretty, you don’t see a scar, which proves I’m the king of the ring by far.”