In-Depth

Muhammad Ali: A true fighter inside and outside the ring

Muhammad Ali, the magnificent heavyweight champion whose fast fists and irrepressible personality transcended sports and captivated the world, passed away on June 4, 2016. He was 74.

Ali proclaimed himself “the greatest” — as well as “the boldest, the prettiest, the most superior, most scientific, most skillfullest”.

Few could argue with him at his peak in the 1960s. With his dancing feet and quick fists, he could “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee”. He was the first person to win the heavyweight championship three times.



>Boxing legend Muhammad Ali passes away

Ali, whose fame transcended sport during a remarkable heavyweight boxing career that spanned three decades, had been hospitalised in Phoenix, Arizona, area with a respiratory ailment this week.



Eight facts about the former boxing champ



Ali had a show-time personality, dazzling footwork and great hand speed that combined to make him a champion like his sport had never seen. His career record was 56 victories, 37 of them by knockout, and five losses. He held the world championship an unprecedented three different times.

Fighting under his given name of Cassius Clay, he won a gold medal in the light heavyweight competition at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. In a 1975 autobiography he said he threw the medal into a river one night after being refused service in a Louisville restaurant and being harassed by a gang of whites.

His first professional fight was a six-round decision in 1960 over Tunney Hunsaker, whose day job was police chief of Fayetteville, West Virginia. Ali and Hunsaker became friends and Ali wrote in an autobiography that one of the hardest body blows he ever received came from Hunsaker

After Malcolm X helped Ali become a member of the Nation of Islam, he dropped his given name in favor of Cassius X. Malcolm X later split from the church in a dispute but the fighter stayed on and changed his name to Muhammad Ali, which Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad said was his “true name.”

Claiming conscientious objector status, Ali refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army in 1967. He was sentenced to five years in prison, lost his title and could not get a fight at a time when he was in his athletic prime. He never went to prison while his case was under appeal and in 1971 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction.

In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's syndrome that apparently was linked to his career. It left him slow, shaky and unable to speak much above a whisper but close associates said he never lost his sense of humor or zeal for his faith.

Ali, named the top sportsman of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated magazine, met world leaders such as Queen Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II, Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein. He was given a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

The U.S. Army measured Ali's IQ at 78. In his autobiography he said, “I only said I was the greatest, not the smartest.”



Muhammad Ali and the India connection



>Muhammad Ali's greatest fights

Revered and reviled by millions, Ali cut quite a figure in his prime. He finished with a record of 56-5 with 37 knockouts and was the first man to win heavyweight titles three times.

>Muhammad Ali’s most famous quotes

“What I suffered physically was worth what I’ve accomplished in life. A man who is not courageous enough to take risks will never accomplish anything in life.”

>When Madras had Ali in its corner

Not many know that in 1980, crowds thronged Chennai’s Nehru stadium to witness the legend in action.

>If it’s October, it must be Muhammad Ali

‘Rumble in the Jungle’ and ‘Thrilla in Manila’ rank among the finest in boxing’s history.

>Now it can be told

A photographer writes about his experience covering the 1980 exhibition match between Muhammad Ali and Jimmy Ellis.



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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 12:31:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/specials/in-depth/Muhammad-Ali-A-true-fighter-inside-and-outside-the-ring/article14423968.ece

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