Claim to Fame
Boxing Heavyweight world champion
Has Detailed Data (New)
Louisville Central High, Louisville, Kentucky
Full Name at Birth
Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.
Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.; January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016) was an American professional boxer and activist. He was widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century. From early in his career, Ali was known as an inspiring, controversial, and polarizing figure both inside and outside the ring.
Place of Death
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Profile Bio Text
Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016) was an American professional boxer, generally regarded as the most significant heavyweight in the history of the sport. Early in his career, Ali was known for being an inspiring, controversial and polarizing figure both inside and outside the boxing ring. He is one of the most recognized sports figures of the past 100 years, crowned "Sportsman of the Century" by Sports Illustrated and "Sports Personality of the Century" by the BBC. He also wrote several best-selling books about his career, including The Greatest: My Own Story and The Soul of a Butterfly.
Ali, originally known as Cassius Clay, began training at 12 years old. At the age of 22, he won the world heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston in a stunning upset in 1964. Shortly after that, Ali joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name. He converted to Sunni Islam in 1975, and then to Sufism in 2005.
In 1967, three years after winning the heavyweight title, Ali refused to be conscripted into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War. He was eventually arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges and stripped of his boxing title. He did not fight again for nearly four years—losing a time of peak performance in an athlete's career. Ali's appeal worked its way up to the Supreme Court of the United States where, in 1971, his conviction was overturned. Ali's actions as a conscientious objector to the war made him an icon for the larger counterculture generation.
Ali remains the only three-time lineal world heavyweight champion; he won the title in 1964, 1974, and 1978. Between February 25, 1964 and September 19, 1964 Muhammad Ali reigned as the undisputed heavyweight boxing champion.
Nicknamed "The Greatest", Ali was involved in several historic boxing matches. Notable among these were the first Liston fight, three with rival Joe Frazier, and "The Rumble in the Jungle" with George Foreman, in which he regained titles he had been stripped of seven years earlier.
At a time when most fighters let their managers do the talking, Ali, inspired by professional wrestler "Gorgeous" George Wagner, thrived in—and indeed craved—the spotlight, where he was often provocative and outlandish. He controlled most press conferences and interviews, and spoke freely about issues unrelated to boxing. Ali transformed the role and image of the African American athlete in America by his embrace of racial pride and his willingness to antagonize the white establishment in doing so. In the words of writer Joyce Carol Oates, he was one of the few athletes in any sport to "define the terms of his public reputation".
Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. The older of two boys, he was named for his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr., who himself was named in honor of the 19th century abolitionist and politician of the same name. He had a sister and four brothers, including Nathaniel Clay. Clay's paternal grandparents were John Clay and Sallie Anne Clay; Clay's sister Eva quoted that Sallie was a native of Madagascar. His father painted billboards and signs, and his mother, Odessa O'Grady Clay, was a household domestic. Although Cassius Sr. was a Methodist, he allowed Odessa to bring up both Cassius and his younger brother Rudolph "Rudy" Clay (later renamed Rahman Ali) as Baptists. He was a descendant of pre-Civil War era American slaves in the American South, and was predominantly of African-American descent, with Irish and English heritage.
He was first directed toward boxing by Louisville police officer and boxing coach Joe E. Martin, who encountered the 12-year-old fuming over a thief taking his bicycle. He told the officer he was going to "whup" the thief. The officer told him he had better learn how to box first. For the last four years of Clay's amateur career he was trained by boxing cutman Chuck Bodak.
Clay made his amateur boxing debut in 1954. He won six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union national title, and the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Clay's amateur record was 100 wins with five losses. Ali claimed in his 1975 autobiography that shortly after his return from the Rome Olympics he threw his gold medal into the Ohio River after he and a friend were refused service at a "whites-only" restaurant and fought with a white gang. The story has since been disputed and several of Ali's friends, including Bundini Brown and photographer Howard Bingham, have denied it. Brown told Sports Illustrated writer Mark Kram, "Honkies sure bought into that one!" Thomas Hauser's biography of Ali stated that Ali was refused service at the diner but that he lost his medal a year after he won it. Ali received a replacement medal at a basketball intermission during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where he lit the torch to start the games.
Marriages and children
Ali was married four times and had seven daughters and two sons. Ali met his first wife, cocktail waitress Sonji Roi, approximately one month before they married on August 14, 1964. Roi's objections to certain Muslim customs in regard to dress for women contributed to the breakup of their marriage. They divorced on January 10, 1966.
On August 17, 1967, Ali married Belinda Boyd. After the wedding, she, like Ali, converted to Islam. She changed her name to Khalilah Ali, though she was still called Belinda by old friends and family. They had four children: Maryum (born 1968), twins Jamillah and Rasheda (born 1970), and Muhammad Ali, Jr. (born 1972). Maryum has a career as an author and rapper.
In 1975, Ali began an affair with Veronica Porsche, an actress and model. By the summer of 1977, his second marriage was over and he had married Porsche. At the time of their marriage, they had a baby girl, Hana, and Veronica was pregnant with their second child. Their second daughter, Laila Ali, was born in December 1977. By 1986, Ali and Porsche were divorced.
Laila became a boxer in 1999, despite her father's earlier comments against female boxing in 1978: "Women are not made to be hit in the breast, and face like that... the body's not made to be punched right here patting his chest. Get hit in the breast... hard... and all that." As of 2014, Laila is undefeated in the super middleweight category, with 24 wins, no losses, and no draws.
On November 19, 1986, Ali married Yolanda ("Lonnie") Williams. They had been friends since 1964 in Louisville. They have one son, Asaad Amin, whom they adopted when Amin was five months old.
Ali was a resident of Cherry Hill, New Jersey in the early 1970s. He had two other daughters, Miya and Khaliah, from extramarital relationships.
Ali most recently lived in Scottsdale, Arizona, with Lonnie. In January 2007 it was reported that they had put their home in Berrien Springs, Michigan, up for sale and had purchased a home in eastern Jefferson County, Kentucky, for $1,875,000. Lonnie converted to Islam from Catholicism in her late twenties.
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