Muhammad Ali Would Have Been 80 Monday
On Monday Muhammad Ali would have been 80 years of age. And, to say that Ali was one of the most colorful and important figures not just in sports, but an American and maybe, even worldwide culture in the 20th century, would be accurate.
It’s not just that Ali had his success in the ring, which was massive, but also what he stood for outside of it that makes him so memorable. Yes, Ali very famously became the first man to ever win the Heavyweight Championship on three separate occasions. And, his wins over the likes of Sonny Liston, George Foreman and Joe Frazier are legendary. But, it was as much what he represented outside of the ring that he would become more known for.
More on that in a second.
Muhammad Ali Early Career
Born in Louisville, KY as Cassius Clay in 1942, he became Olympic Gold medal winner, Still known as Clay at the time, he scored one of the greatest upsets in Heavyweight boxing history, when he dethroned the hard punching title holder Sonny Liston in 1964. Then, he embraced Islam and changed his named to Ali and then, he won the ultra controversial one round KO with Liston in the rematch the following year.
Known for he boisterous arrogant style and with his rhyming poems and at a time where America (especially in the South) was embroiled in racial, civil rights controversy of the 60s, Ali became a target.
Ali stood firm behind his Muslim faith in his objection to fighting in a foreign war and eventually was vindicated by the U.S. Supreme Court on not having to accept his induction and that the government could not keep him from being a licensed professional fighter.
Ali-Frazier Fight of Century
Specifically, his first bout with Frazier was dubbed the “Fight of the Century” at Madison Square Garden in March of 1971. And, that bout will celebrate its 51st anniversary coming in just a couple of more months. That legendary fight came at a time in which Ali had been banished from the sport for his refusal to enter the United States military and report for duty in the Vietnam War that engulfed the USA in the 1960s.
Still, “The Greatest” had lost three years of his prime boxing career before making his way back into that MSG ring against Smokin’ Joe. Then, when Frazier defeated him, there was great question about whether Ali could ever get his titles back?. That led to the odyssey that ended with him destroying the persona of the seemingly invincible Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle” of Zaire in October of 1974.
Ali then famously won the trilogy fight with Frazier in the “Thrilla in Manila” the following year, which cemented once and for all, Ali’s place not only in the Hall of Fame, but all-time boxing history.
Ali was later upset by former U.S. Gold Medalist Leon Spinks in a shocking 1978 defeat. However, he summoned his greatness one final time and, again, on the biggest stage of all that point. He won a 15-round rematch in front of over 63,000 in the Louisiana Superdome and more than 90 million people watching nationwide on ABC Sports.
Unfortunately, like many others before and after him, Ali continue to fight late in his career when he shouldn’t have. That, would lead to his being demolished by Larry Holmes in 1980 and then, beaten again by Trevor Berbick in 1981. With those flights seemingly leading to his decline with eventual Parkinson’s syndrome diagnosis.
The final years of all these life we’re much more sad than colorful and entertaining before Ali passed away in 2016 at the age of 74.
Still, Muhammad Ali reached the same status in world-wide fame for decades with the names like Pele, Elvis, and the Beatles. Fame where everyone, everywhere, knew exactly who “the Greatest” was.