Muhammad Ali: Biography and Facts
“The society and culture that Muhammad Ali grew up in was very different from the society that existed when he died. Ali has an influence on these changes in society. The 1960s was a time of new ideas of thinking and expressions had opened many pathways to the American culture and society. When Cassius Clay was growing up in the 1940-50s segregation was widespread schools, restaurants, housing, restrooms, and working were all segregated by different races. In fact in 1957 African American high schools could participate in athletic tournaments. Growing up in this environment had a huge impact on Cassius Clay. When he became famous he used that position to change the way people were treated in America. Muhammad Ali was an American boxer, and activist. His power as a heroic character traversed the entire span of the movement’s ideological spectrum. In ways that nobody else could, he appealed concurrently to people and organizations who otherwise agreed on not so much politically.
Muhammad Ali was born as Cassius Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942, long before the civil rights movement had started. His fame and notoriety as a professional boxer gave him a bigger platform for him to further speak on civil rights for African Americans in the United States. He was nicknamed, “the greatest” and was pronounced the heavyweight champion of the world three times. He was also won an olympic medal at the 1980 olympics when he was eighteen. Then, at age 22, he won the heavyweight championship, because of all these achievements Muhammad Ali became a household name and was constantly in the news. The history website stated, “Citing his religious beliefs, he refused military induction and was stripped of his ?heavyweight championship and banned from boxing for three years during the prime of his career.”(history.com). As his fame grew, he wasn’t afraid to state his beliefs regarding the Vietnam war and the status of African Americans.
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Cassius Clay Jr. grew up in Louisville Kentucky, when there was still segregated facilities His father painted billboards and signs and his mother was a mald, and had one brother. When he was 12 a Louisville policeman, Joe Martin, coached him in boxing. Officer martin said “You better learn how to fight first.” Joe was a leader in the Louisville civil rights movement and Clay’s beliefs were influenced by Joe Martin. As Clay developed his boxing style he also gained a personality that was eye-opening to most americans. He made boxing an art with fancy footwork and speedy hands. He also came up with memorable phrases like “The greatest” and “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” He was a true show off in the ring, he had earned the nickname the “Louisville lip.” His actions and performances in the ring changed the face of boxing and made it become a more popular sport.
In 1964 clay attended a nation of Islam meeting and announced he was accepting the teachings of islam that Malcolm x told him about. He felt that Cassius Clay was his slave name and he changed his name to Muhammad Ali as a new and free person. Shortly after accepting Islam as a way of life Clay received his first title shot against the heavyweight champion of the World, Sonny Liston. Liston was heavily favored but couldn’t even make it to the seventh round. The new champion stood in the middle of the ring and shouted, “ I am the greatest.” he beat Liston again the next year and had defended his title 8 more times.
Ali was a larger than life figure. He was loud and boisterous, but his actions followed his words. He would brag and throw out slogans but his quick feet and fast jabs got the job done, winning fight after fight. When he learned about the nation of Islam from Malcolm X, he again loudly and privately discussed his dedication to the Islam religion. The nation of Islam’s goals were to improve all aspects of the life of the African Americans in the United States and of all people. The independent article stated. “He stood against the Vietnam War long before that was a popular stance, spoke out repeatedly against racism and later campaigned against Islamophobia in the US following the 9/11 attacks.”(independent.com) This shows the connection he had to
making the world a better place.
In 1967 the Vietnam war was raging and the United States army was drafting all eligible males to go fight in vietnam. Ali had made his stand known 14 months earlier when in his usual blunt way he said, “I ain’t got no coral with the Viet Cong.” He was not qualified as a conscientious objector because he said he would be willing to participate in the Islamictory war. The Companion stayed, “ Hating people because of their color is wrong and it doesn’t matter which color the hating, is just PLAIN WRONG.” (thecompanion.com). Because of his stand against the Vietnam war Ali lost his championship title, and couldn’t fight anywhere in the United States for three and a half years. Ali was convicted of refusing to serve in the United States army and fight in a war he didn’t believe in. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but he remained free on bail till four years later and his conviction was overturned. The encyclopedia discussed his statement, “unless you have a very good reason to kill, war is wrong.” (Encyclopedia). Because Muhammed was viewed as a hero and beloved by the African American community, his stand had a huge impact on society. The PBS media stated, “Ali was found guilty of ?draft evasion? and stripped of his boxing title. He was also banned from boxing for three years. He did not serve time in prison due to the appeals process.”(Pbs learning media). Eventually many people came to agree with Muhammad Ali about the necessity for the United States to be in Vietnam. It became a highly un-populated war. Ali stood up and said “no, I won’t go,” and this made an impact on the people around him. It became the chant to end the Vietnam war.
When Ali left the world of Boxing in 1967 he was younger, faster, and at the top of his game. Because three and a half years passed Ali’s boxing skills had retired. His legs didn’t have the same bounce and his reflexes were no longer as fast. Ali sacrificed three and a half years of the most productive boxing years of his life to stand up for his beliefs. What athlete would do that today? Ali did ten fights after he came back, but in 1973 an underdog Ken Norton broke Ali’s jaw. The next year he fought in the Republic of Congo in the Rumble in the Jungle, which he won. Ali continued to be a very popular fighter over the next 30 months but his skills started to decline. He would often do random acts of kindness for others. In the article my hero it states, “Ali wanted respect and equality.” (myhero.com) To serve others justice he wanted to be paid back with respect. In the final performance of his boxing career in 1978 he lost his title to Leon Spinks, a novice boxer, with only seven fights. A huge price that Ali payed because of all these fights was damaged to his brain, he had slurred speech and other symptoms of parkinson disease. Fortunately, his intellect did not suffer. After his career, he opened a parkensanse research center, donated to the special olympics and to the Make A Wish foundation, and to other charities. He also volunteered from the United Nations. This was stated by the Britannica, Encyclopedia. It is hard to believe that a man who grew up in poverty and segregation could become someone who willingly gave away a lot of his money to needy causes.
Muhammad Ali, or known as Cassius Clay, had a remarkable boxing career winning Olympic Gold and National championships. He wasn’t only recognized for his athletic abilities but for his courageous ways of questioning the existing beliefs back then, regarding war and Civil Rights. Because of his boisterous and larger than life personality in and out of the boxing ring, he was able to stand up and state his beliefs and people listened. It’s amazing that someone would give up everything they had worked so hard to achieve, as Ali did when he wouldn’t fight in Vietnam. In his final years Ali was recognized as the hero he truly was receiving the medal of freedom, from the President Bush. It must have been gratifying to Ali to attend the presidential inauguration of the first African American President. What changes Ali saw in the course of his lifetime from 1942 to 2016. He notoriously transformed the World of Boxing, but also was an advocate for racial equality.”