Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali was a lot more than a boxer during the 1900’s, he was a worldwide icon. From his catch phrases, to his stance on the Vietnam War, to ultimately his reign as Heavyweight champion, Ali was and still is a celebrated athlete around the planet.
Ali Knocks Out Olympians
In 1960, Ali and the rest of the United States qualifiers made their way to Rome for the annual Olympics. Ali would partake in the Light Heavyweight boxing event.
Only 18-years old at the time, Ali would tear through his first few fights at the Olympics with ease. In the final, he defeated three-time European champion Zbigniew Pietrzykowski to win the gold medal.
The world was on their feet, and even allowed for Ali to carry the torch at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. To this day, the moment Ali carried the torch is known as one of the most emotional and touching moments in the history of sports.
Taking a Stand Against War
In 1964, Ali converted to a black Muslim group Nation of Islam. Ali continued to have outspoken views against the Vietnam War. In April of 1967, Ali would find himself drafted into the war.
Because of his religious beliefs against fighting and killing, Ali refused to leave the country. He was later arrested by the authorities, and was almost stripped of his title, as well as his boxing license.
During his trial, Ali would be unable to compete for over three years during his potential prime. The U.S. Supreme Court would eventually overturn Ali’s conviction in 1971.
A Lights-Out Boxing Career
Ali is without a doubt one of the best pound for pound athletes in the history of sports. With an overall record of 56-5, he dominated just about any opponent in his way. Ali would also contribute 37 knockouts during his 21-year career.
His five losses would come from Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Leon Spinks, Larry Holmes and Trever Berbick. Interestingly enough, Ali would rematch each of these men, and beat all of them except for Larry Holmes. Three of Ali’s last five bouts would be losses, including his last two both being losses.
The Battle of Ali vs Parkinson’s
In 1984 (three years after his retirement), Ali came out publicly with the fact that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Instead of laying down and waiting for his time to come, he instead chose to raise funds via the Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Disease Center in Pheonix, Arizona.
For his efforts and contribuations to society, it lead to the previously mentioned ceremony of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Ali would continue to travel to numerous countries, and eventually received the Presidental Medal of Freedom in 2005 from George W Bush.
Despite the continuation of battling with Parkinson’s, Ali was present during the inauguration of Barrack Obama in 2009. Shortly afterwards, Ali would receive yet another award from the NAACP for his public service efforts.
Ali would eventually pass away in a hospital in June of 2016, but left behind the legacy of potentially the greatest athlete of all time. Not only did he fight for his pride in the ring, but he fought for society as a whole outside of thr ring.
For that, there is no surprise to why Muhammad Ali should be remembered in Black History Month this year.
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