“Float like butterfly, sting like a bee” may be the most famous quote from an athlete known toady. Born Cassius Clay, he would soon become famous as Muhammed Ali. He was born in early 1942 and was fathered by Clay Sr. and his mother was Odessa Grady. Both Clay Sr. was a hard working provider and Odessa worked just as hard tend to the family and house. Ali’s life would change at the early age of 12 when he met Joe Martin a former cop and soon to be Ali’s coach.
Martin helped Ali to channel his childhood angst in to the gym and soon in to the boxing ring. Ali would flourish as an amateur boxer, but was not making the money others would. He would separate from his mentor and begin to train with Fred Stoner who would start to give Ali his early taste of success. His biggest triumph as an amateur was in the summer of 1960 when won a gold medal in Rome. The gold medal would be a catalyst to his boxing career.
Tunney Hunsaker would be the first opponent to fall at his hands in the professional ranks. Despite his size he did not pound people to a pulp, instead he would rely on speed to avoid and deliver deadly punches. He had an astonishing 19-0 record with an amazing 15 knockouts. He had an impressive array of boxers that he faced during this time, including the formerly monstrous Lamar Clark, who had forty straight knockouts under his belt himself. As he’ll always be remembered for his quotes, he may be best remembered for his predictions.
Ali would predict the round that his opponent would fall and had gotten it right a several occasions. Ali had developed his persona from a former wrestler “Gorgeous George” who was a boastful character in the ring as well. He would become a champion for the first time when he defeated Sonny Liston.
In 1964 he would gain another title, as he would officially go from Clay to Muhammad Ali and joining the nation of Islam. Ali would trail Malcolm X and his followers. Ali would go on to protest the war and declare it was against his beliefs.
His next battle would be even more epic as he would fight in what would be declared the fight of the century. In March of 1971 he would step into the ring against Joe Fraizier and the two would battle in an amazing fight. The two would meet up again in 1974 in what was dubbed as Ali-Fraizier II. Following his rematch with Fraizier he would run into his next challenge, battling George Foreman in “the Rumble in the Jungle.” The two behemoths stood toe to toe as Ali would go on to beat Foreman. Following this battle Ali would meet up again with Fraizier and beat him in what was know as “The Thriller in Manila.”
Ali had a great career as a boxer and strongly defeated most who stood before him, his greatest opponent to date may be the disease that has finally slowed him down, Parkinson’s.