Nicknames: The Greatest, The People's Champion, The Louisville LipBiography:
While the modern day popularity of boxing pales in comparison to the rising prominence of MMA and others, few can deny Muhammad Ali's solid position among the greatest boxers who ever lived. He grew into a tremendous man who had an extreme influence not only on the sport of boxing, but in the political and social arena as well.
The man himself was actually given the name of Cassius Clay. Hailing from Kentucky, it was quickly apparent that Ali was destined for boxing greatness. He was an Olympic medalist at the ripe young age of 18, quickly following that up with his first of many world heavyweight boxing titles in 1964 at the age of 22. All of this was accomplished during an era that was most difficult for the black athlete in America, yet Muhammad Ali would rise up against any perceived barrier and come out the other side a stronger individual as a result.
As a young man, Muhammad Ali spoke out against any perceived social injustice in the world. This would mean that he would end up refusing obligatory military service during the Vietnam War when he was drafted. This resulted in a temporary ban from the sport of boxing. When he was allowed back in, however, he quickly reclaimed the work heavyweight title two more times, once from Joe Frazier and again from George Foreman.
Boxing would not be the only fight that Muhammad Ali was known for, as he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease just over 20 years ago. He continues to live valiantly with the disease, and he is a spokesperson that draws great awareness to a disease that still mystifies the medical community. Because of his efforts at charity work, Muhammad Ali was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then President Bush back in 2005.
Naturally, Ali is best known for his boxing, but he is a fascinating study in human character and resolve as well. He is known to have done a great deal of soul searching in his early years, culminating with his conversion to Islam not long after he won Olympic Gold. He was a proud American, yet he was unsure of the direction of the military, choosing to be arrested rather than ascribing himself to military service. Through it all, however, he kept his body and mind in remarkable shape and it truly one of the great sportsman of our generation.
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