DARC Ethiophile Chronicles
On this day
January 17, 1942 World Heavyweight Boxing champion, Muhammad Ali was born.
Boxer, philanthropist and social activist Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. Ali became a Golden Gloves champion in 1959, and became an Olympic gold medalist the following year. Ali won all of his bouts in the 1960s, the majority of them by knockout. Since his retirement, Ali has devoted much of his time to philanthropy.
Considered one of the greatest athletes in boxing history Ali experienced racial prejudice and discrimination firsthand while growing up in the segregated South. At an early age Ali showed that he wasn't afraid of any fight both inside or outside of the ring. In fact at the age of 12, he discovered his talent for boxing through an odd twist of fate. His bike was stolen, and Ali told a police officer, Joe Martin, that he wanted to beat up the thief. "Well, you better learn how to fight before you start challenging people," Martin reportedly told him at the time. In addition to being a police officer, Martin also trained young boxers at a local gym. Soon afterwards Ali started working with Martin and quickly learn how to box. He won his first amateur bout in 1954, by a split decision; the rest is history.
Often referring to himself as "the greatest," Ali was not afraid to sing his own praises. He was known for boasting about his skills before a fight and for his colorful descriptions and phrases. In one of his more famously quoted descriptions, Ali told reporters that he could "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" in the boxing ring. This bold public persona belied what was happening in Ali's personal life, however. He was doing some spiritual searching and decided to join the black Muslim group, the Nation of Islam, in 1964. At first, he called himself "Cassius X," eventually settling on the name Muhammad Ali.
Two years later, Ali started a different kind of fight when he refused to acknowledge his military service after being drafted. He said that he was a practicing Muslim minister, and that his religious beliefs prevented him from fighting in the Vietnam War.
In 1967, Ali put his personal values ahead of his career. The U.S. Department of Justice pursued a legal case against Ali, denying his claim for conscientious objector status. He was found guilty of refusing to be inducted into the military, but Ali later cleared his name after a lengthy court battle. Professionally, however, Ali did not fare as well. The boxing association took away his title and suspended him from the sport for three and a half years.