Muhammad Ali

November 25, 2012 5:55 am

When Muhammad Ali was 12 years old, someone stole his bicycle. It was a shiny new bike, a birthday present. Ali was very angry. He told a police officer he wanted to punch the person who stole it. The officer suggested that he back up those “fighting words” by learning how to box.
During the next 25 years, Muhammad Ali would become one of the top athletes and best boxers of the 20th century. He won a gold medal at the Olympic Games. He went on to earn the title of world heavyweight boxing champion three different times. His fights were major events watched by millions of people around the world.
Muhammad Ali was born in 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. His parents named him Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. They named their son after a Kentucky statesman who had fought against slavery in the 1800s.
Young Cassius Clay quickly made his mark in the boxing ring. He turned professional after winning a gold medal in the Olympic Games in 1960. Four years later, he knocked out Sonny Liston to earn his first world heavyweight champion title.
After winning the title, Clay converted to Islam. This religion follows the teachings of the prophet Muhammad. When Clay converted, he took a new name, Muhammad Ali.
In 1967, Ali was called on to join the United States Army. The country was fighting the Vietnam War at the time, and young men were being enlisted to take part. But Ali refused to go. He said his religion taught him to oppose all wars.
Ali was sentenced to prison, fined, and stripped of his boxing title. Ali fought his conviction, but he did not regain the right to box professionally for 3½ years.
In 1974, Ali won the world heavyweight title again by beating George Foreman. Then he defended a challenge by former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier in a fight Ali called “The Thrilla in Manila.” This was a 15-round fight in the capital city of the Philippines. Ali won that fight.
Ali defended his heavyweight title six more times before he lost to Leon Spinks in February 1978. But Ali came back to beat Spinks and regain the title seven months later.
Ali retired in 1981 with a record of 56 wins and 5 losses. He won fame for his graceful footwork, powerful jabs, and confident boasts about his boxing skill. He proclaimed that he was “The Greatest,” and many sports fans agreed.
Ali thrilled fans once again when he lit the flame at the start of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.
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