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Thursday, March 19, 2009

An Essay on Muhammad Ali aka Cassius Clay

An Essay on Muhammad Ali aka Cassius Clay

Muhammad Ali aka Cassius Clay not only was one of, if not the greatest boxer of all time, but still is one of the most influential men of his day.

Though slowed by Parkinson’s syndrome now, Ali long has been a political activist and champion for the cause of Black Americans. He not only won the World Heavyweight Boxing title three different times over a 15-year span, but challenged the world of traditionalism when he joined the Islam faith, changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, then refused to enter the U.S. Army and fight in the Vietnam War.

Some key dates and events in regards to the life of Muhammad Ali include:

* January 17, 1942 Born in Louisville, Kentucky

* 1954 At age 12 begins boxing

* 1959 Wins national Golden Gloves championship as middleweight

* 1960 Wins Gold Medal in Rome Olympics as light heavyweight

* 1964 Defeats “Sonny” Liston for his first World Heavyweight Championship

* 1964 Announces conversion to Islam; changes name to Muhammad Ali

* August 1966 Petitions to become conscientious objector

* April 1967 After petition denied, refuses induction in U.S. Army

* June 1967 Sentenced to five years in prison; appeals decision, released on bail

* 1967 Stripped of heavyweight title; only boxes in exhibitions for more than three years

* 1971 Loses in 15 rounds to undefeated heavyweight champion, Joe Frazier, in “Battle in Manila:” Supreme Court reverses draft evasion conviction

* 1974 Defeats George Foreman to win World Heavyweight title second time; wins Frazier rematch

* 1975 Named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year; wins another rematch with Frazier

* 1975-76 Successfully defends title seven times in fourteen months

* June 29, 1977 Participates in six exhibition boxing matches in one day

* 1978 Loses World Heavyweight Title to Leon Spinks, then wins title back for third time later in year

* 1980 Campaigns for Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter

* 1981 Final boxing match: ends career with 56 wins (37 knockouts) and five losses

* 1982 Initial diagnosis of Parkinson’s syndrome

* 1996 Lights opening torch for Summer Olympics in Atlanta

Renowned for his quick hands, speed in the ring, punching power, and ability to take a punch, Cassius Clay became an American favorite until, inspired by human rights activist Malcolm X, in 1964 he embraced the Black Muslim faith and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.

Always outspoken and controversial, Ali became more popular again when he defied the U.S. government by refusing to be inducted in the U.S. Army when such service likely would have sent him into the unpopular Vietnam War.

Nicknamed “The Greatest,” Ali became known as a poet who regularly wrote poems predicting outcomes of upcoming boxing matches. After retiring from the ring, he became a diplomat and a philanthropist.

So when one researches Muhammad Ali aka Cassius Clay, what you find is a gifted, multi-dimensional Black man who revolutionalized the sport of boxing.


  1. The first Frazier-Ali fight in 1971 was called "The Fight of the Century" and took place in New York. It was the 3rd Ali-Frazier fight that was held in the Phillipines in 1975 that became known as the "Thrilla in Manilla".

    Jack W. Heffling

  2. The 1971 Ali-Frazier fight was in New York. It was the 1975 fight that became the "thrilla in Manilla".