Obituary: Muhammad Ali – BBC News

Media captionThe BBC’s Joe Wilson gazes back at the life and profession of Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali was, at his heyday, arguably the most famous humankind on the planet.

His colossal boxing aptitude was matched exclusively by a towering self-belief.

“I am the greatest, ” he said, and who could disbelieve a mortal who won the World Heavyweight Championship three times.

His outspoken support for civil rights endeared him to millions of people across the world.

He was born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, on 17 January 1942, the son of a sign painter. He was appointed after a prominent 19 th Century abolitionist.

When he was 12, he reported his bicycle had been stolen and told a police officer he was going to “whup” the culprit.

The officer, Joe Martin, taught young fighters at a local gym and indicated the youngster learn to box before he challenged the thief.

Clay swiftly took to the ring, shaping his competitive debut in 1954 in a three-minute amateur bout.

“He stood out because he had more resolution than most boys, ” Martin subsequently withdrew. “He was easily the hardest laborer of any kid I ever taught.”

Over the following five years, his amateur vocation prospered and he acquired a number of honors in particular the Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions in 1959.

Media captionArchive: Muhammad Ali

In 1960 he was selected in the US team for the Rome Olympics. At first he refused to go because of his fear of running. Eventually, is in accordance with Joe Martin’s son, he bought a second-hand parachute and wore it on the flight.

It was worth all the effort. On 5 September 1960, he thumped Poland’s Zbigniew Pietrzykowski to become the Olympic light-heavyweight champion.

He received a hero’s welcome when the team turned over to New York but current realities of the segregated US society hit home when he got back to Kentucky and was refused a table in a restaurant.

Ali claimed in his 1975 autobiography that he threw away his Olympic medal in hatred but it was later received information that he lost it a year after his return from Rome.


Though only 18, he joined boxing’s paid grades and began his professional career afterwards the same time with a six-round degrees win over Tunney Hunsaker, a police chief from West Virginia.

“Clay was as fast as lightning, ” Hunsaker said after the bout. “I tried every ploy I knew to shed him off balance but he was just too good.”

Ali also took on Angelo Dundee, the trainer who would contribute so much better to his boxing success.

A steady inheritance of wins, reinforced by scandalous self-advertising, raised him honour, if not universal popularity.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The 22 -year-old Cassius Clay upset Sonny Liston to acquire the world heavyweight name in February 1964

Clay’s remarkable demeanour in the ring involved moving around his rivals like a lightweight.

He taunted them, enthralling crowds with his showboating, shuffling hoofs and lightning reflexes.

He offered further hostages to fortune by predicting not merely his opponents’ overcome, but when precisely he would dispose of them. “They must fall the round I call, ” he boasted.

In London in 1963, he was floored in the fourth round by British champion Henry Cooper, but fulfilled his pre-fight projection when slashes to Cooper’s eye coerced his retirement in the next round.

Nation of Islam

The following year Clay challenged the formidable world-wide endorse Sonny Liston, whom he referred to as “that ugly old-time bear”.

Clay was given no chance by the boxing press but guided reverberates round his older opposing and pushed Liston to quit on his stool at the end of the sixth round.

“I shook up the world, ” a near-hysterical Clay proclaimed after the fight.

Away from the ring, Clay was a ferocious opponent of the racism that blighted large areas of the United States in the 1960 s.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Clay stopped Henry Cooper in 1963 – but merely after the Englishman had floored him with ‘Enery’s ‘Ammer

By the time of his first fighting against Liston, Clay was already involved with the Person of Islam, which called for separate pitch-black development.

The policy was in direct contrast to the all-inclusive approach supported by civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King.

The heavyweight endorse of countries around the world became Muhammad Ali. Cassius Clay, he said, was his “slave name”, and he took exception to anyone who continued to use it.

Ernie Terrell referred to Ali by his birth appoint during the build-up to their world championship crusade in 1967, simply for Ali to hand out a 15 -round battering.

Jail sentence

At various extents during the course of its contest, Ali bellowed in Terrell’s face: “What’s my epithet, Uncle Tom? “

Ali became a hate figure for regions of the American public and just more than 2,000 beings turned up to see his rematch with Liston, which he controversially prevailed with a first-round knockout.

Eight more entitlement defences followed but when Ali refused to sign the covenant of allegiance to join the Us soldiers( “I ain’t got no feud with them Vietcong”), he was deprived of his title.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Arguably Ali’s most famous combat came against George Foreman in 1974: the Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire

He was also leaved five years in jail, a convict that was quashed on appeal.

After three years of ripening anguish among Americans about the Vietnam War, Ali was granted a reprieve and returned to the ring in 1970 with a win over Jerry Quarry.

But his enforced absence had taken its toll on his rush, and in 1971 he was beaten for the first time in his working career by Joe Frazier. Ali gained his retribution three years later.

Perhaps Ali’s greatest minute came in October 1974 where reference is overcome George Foreman in Zaire in the so-called Rumble in the Jungle .


As with the first Liston fight, Ali was given little chance against the unyielding Foreman and some commentators even feared for his life.

With a frenetic audience behind him, Ali spent most of the first eight rounds reclining back on the ropes, soaking up the pierces of his younger, and significantly larger, foe.

He called the tactic “rope-a-dope”, and at the end of the eighth round he sprang out of his defensive shell and moved Foreman sprawling to the canvas with a picture-perfect combination.

At the age of 32, Ali had become only the second man in record to regain the heavyweight championship of the world.

A year later, Ali met Frazier for a third time in the so-called Thrilla in Manila, perhaps the most brutal encounter in heavyweight history.

Ali said it was the closest he had come to death in the ring, but he was triumphant when Frazier’s corner halted the fight after 14 rounds.

Ali could, and perhaps should, have retired at that point, but he opposed on.

Image caption Ali made a number of memorable looks on Michael Parkinson’s chat depicts in the 1970 s

Fading force

In Las Vegas in February 1978, he lost his name to Leon Spinks, the 1976 Olympic light-heavyweight endorse who was 12 times his junior.

The return fight in New Orleans eight a few months later sucked a world-wide account gate, with millions more watching on television.

This time Ali took a unanimous decision and won the world deed for a third day at 36.

Generous with his fund, Ali is thought to have earned more than $60 m( 37.2 m) from his reverberating career – but by 1979, he seemed to have little of it left.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ali met footballer David Beckham after being reputation Sports Personality of the Century in 1999

That may be one of the reasons he refused to call time on his echoing vocation, but he was clearly a fading oblige when he lost his entitle for the last is now time to former sparring partner Larry Holmes in Las Vegas in 1980.

Ali had one more engaged, against Canadian Trevor Berbick in December 1981, and after losing on points he finally retired from the ring, at the age of 40.

Soon after, rumours began to circulate about the state of his health. His communication had become slurred, he shuffled and was often drowsy.

Exemplary services

Parkinson’s disease was eventually diagnosed, a condition only too obvious when, with gallantry and dignity, he ignited the 1996 Olympic cauldron in Atlanta.

Rumours about Ali’s health sporadically became a subject of heated discussions in the US and abroad.

But he continued to travel, receiving an ecstatic welcome wherever he showed, particularly in the developing world, where he was particularly revered.

The millennium fetes envisioned Ali rewarded across the globe.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ali, here accompanied by his wife Yolanda, was one of the flag bearers at London 2012

In Britain, BBC witness voted him Sports Personality of the Century, and he was given a same awarding from Sports Illustrated in the US.

In 2005, Ali received America’s two highest civilian gifts – the Presidential Citizens Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom – for “exemplary services” to the country.

The same year learnt the opening of the non-profit Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, which promotes armistice, social responsibility and respect.

Muhammad Ali’s register as a boxer was impressive. The record books show that his working career covered 21 times, during which he prevailed 56 fightings, 37 by way of knockout, and lost five.

But he was much more than that. He was a great showman whose off-the-cuff quips and improvised poem triumphed him many friends , not least in the UK.

His high profile payed his espousal of civil right additional heavines and he was a hero to large numbers of black people both in the US and further afield.

And late in life, when this magnificent contestant was introduced low-pitched by a incapacitate malady, his quiet dignity affected everyone he met.

Rarely has any person transcended his athletic in the way Ali did, to become one of the best-known chassis of his time.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Clay, lying on his hotel berth in London, supports up five fingers in a prediction of how many rounds it will take him to knock out British boxers Henry Cooper before their May 1963 bout
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption This iconic image was taken seconds after Clay floored Liston in the first round of their rematch in 1965

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