25 Things You Might Not Know About Muhammad Ali

Posted by , Updated on June 6, 2016

In what might be one of the worst years in terms of the passing of major entertainment and celebrity figures, 2016 continues to take from us one icon after another. After David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Prince most recently, we’re in the sad position today to say good-bye to another great personality who made our world a better and brighter place: humanitarian, activist, and boxing legend Muhammad Ali. The boy who was born Cassius Clay and ended up Muhammad Ali left us late Friday after suffering for years from Parkinson’s disease.

In the eyes of pretty much everybody, Ali was the greatest boxer of all time. Unfortunately, the man who showed the world how to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” endured a number of health problems over the last few decades and had become a shadow of his former glorious self. Suffering from a respiratory illness, a condition that was complicated by his Parkinson’s, Ali entered a hospital in Phoenix last week. In his passing, Muhammad Ali shook the world one last time and has left the world to mourn his loss and honor his humanity. We celebrate The Greatest by bringing you captivating Facts about the sportsman who touched our hearts and souls, probably more than any other athlete in history. These are 25 things you might not know about Muhammad Ali.

25

Muhammad Ali was originally named Cassius Clay in honor of a nineteenth-century white farmer and abolitionist who emancipated the forty slaves he inherited from his father.

Source: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia Source: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
24

Muhammad Ali might be one of the most famous African Americans in history, but he also had Irish roots. His great-grandfather was an Irishman named Abe Grady who immigrated to the United States and settled in Kentucky in the 1860s, where he married a freed slave. The rest is history.

Ali and George Bush Jr.Source: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
23

The thing that motivated him to become a boxer was his beloved red-and-white Schwinn bicycle. When it got stolen in 1954, a twelve-year-old Ali reported the theft to a policeman who gave boxing lessons at a local community center. The officer, who was also a boxing trainer, suggested that Ali learn how to fight, and six weeks later Ali won his first amateur boxing match by a split decision.

bicycleSource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
22

As an amateur boxer Ali won 100 of 108 fights, including six Kentucky Golden Gloves championships and an Olympic gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

ali_1438615aSource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
21

Many stories have been told about his Olympic medal. Ali himself wrote in his 1975 autobiography that after returning to Louisville, he threw his gold medal off a bridge into the Ohio River to protest the racism he still encountered in his hometown. However, his story has been disputed by some of those closest to him who claim he made up the story after he accidentally lost the medal. One way or another, during the 1996 Summer Olympics, Ali received a replacement gold medal.

Muhammad Ali OlympicsSource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia

20

Ali was known for talking trash. He even composed his own verses in which he taunted his opponents and praised himself. People at Columbia Records were so impressed by his taunts that they decided to release a 1963 spoken-word album called I Am the Greatest, in which the twenty-one-year-old performed his “trash talking,” backed my musical accompaniment.

Columbia RecordsSource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
19

After he defeated Sonny Liston for the Heavyweight World Title in 1964, the new champ confirmed reports that he had become a member of the Nation of Islam. Inspired by Malcom X, Ali changed his name to Cassius X.

Source: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia Source: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
18

Muhammad Ali refused to join the U.S. Army and take part in Vietnam, which he considered unjust. He famously stated, “No Vietcong ever called me nigger.”

do-you-remember-muhammad-ali-refuses-vietnam-draft-136397797085503901-150427214140Source: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
17

As a result of his refusal, he was sentenced to five years in prison but was able to stay out on appeal. He was also stripped of his world title and banned from the ring for three years during his prime.

Muhammad AliSource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
16

During his forty-three-month forced exile from the ring Ali starred in a Broadway musical. He took to the stage in Buck White, playing the title role. Unfortunately, the musical closed four nights later after just seven performances. In spite of the project’s failure, Ali, who played a militant black lecturer, received decent reviews.

Source: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia Source: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
15

In 1971 Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier in what went down in history as the “Fight of the Century.” Ali and Frazier split a $5 million purse at Madison Square Garden for Frazier’s title. This was the first professional fight Ali lost.

Joe FrazierSource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
14

Muhammad Ali fought Frazier two more times, winning both matches. One of them is known as the “Thrilla in Manila,” a bout that is consistently ranked as one of the best in the sport’s history.

Joe FrazierSource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
13

“The Rumble in the Jungle” that followed his bouts with Frazier (October 30, 1974) is one of boxing’s most iconic fights and took place in Kinshasa, Zaire. Ali defeated George Foreman (who was considered unbeatable at the time) with a KO in the eighth round.

George ForemanSource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
12

In 1978 Muhammad Ali regained his title from Leon Spinks with a unanimous decision after fifteen rounds, becoming the first World Heavyweight boxing champion to win the title for the third time.

Leon SpinksSource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
11

In 1980, at age thirty-eight, Ali came out of retirement to fight for the heavyweight title against then champion Larry Holmes. This was the first and only time Ali lost by a KO, in the eleventh round. Unfortunately, during this match the first signs of Parkinson’s were seen in public.

Larry HolmesSource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
10

On July 19, 1996, a shaking (from the Parkinson’s) Ali lit the torch at the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, in what was noted by Sports Illustrated as one of the most emotional moments in sports history.

Olympic FlagSource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
9

On February 4, 1999, Muhammad Ali became the first boxer to appear on a box of Wheaties.

Ali on WheatiesSource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: YouTube
8

It might sound hard to believe but Ali practiced his speed by dodging rocks. He asked his best friend to throw rocks at him and according to his younger brother Rudy, Ali dodged every rock thrown at him.

Muhammad AliSource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: YouTube
7

The U.S. Army measured Ali’s IQ at seventy-eight. In his autobiography Ali jokingly says, “I only said I was the greatest, not the smartest.”

Muhammad AliSource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
6

In 1999 Ali was named the top North American sportsman of the twentieth century by Sports Illustrated.

Muhammad AliSource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
5

Almost fifty years after the bout, the gloves Ali wore to defeat Liston and win the world title earned him more money than the victory itself. In 2013 an anonymous buyer purchased the gloves Ali wore to win his first world title for $836,000. For the record, Ali had earned only $630,000 for the victory.

Ali's boxing glovesSource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
4

Benedikt Taschen Publishing’s GOAT: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali weighs seventy-five pounds and is covered in silk and Louis Vuitton leather. It has 780 pages, is twenty-by-twenty inches, has 600,000 words, and more than three thousand images. GOAT stands for “Greatest of All Time.”

Muhammad Ali PosterSource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
3

Since 2013, the Muhammad Ali Center in Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, honors him with the “Three Days of Greatness.”

Source: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia Source: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
2

In 1974 Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali, arguably the two most famous entertainers in the world at the period, met for the first time in Las Vegas. The media and fans alike still refer to that meeting as “when the Greatest met the King.”

Elvis PresleySource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia
1

On November 27, 1990, Muhammad Ali met with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad to negotiate for the release of Americans held hostage in Iraq and Kuwait. The next month Ali would accompany fifteen freed U.S. hostages out of Iraq, a sign of the global respect and admiration Ali enjoyed worldwide.

US armySource: The Greatest: My Own Story, Image: Wikipedia

SEE ALSO: 25 Normal Things The Bible Forbids But We Still Do »

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