Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali dies aged 74

The whole world is in mourning after the announcement of the death of boxing champion and legend, Muhammad Ali. The former heavy-weight champion was seventy-four years of age and battled with Parkinson’s Disease since the mid-eighties. He had been suffering more recently with respiratory problems which caused further complications.

Muhammad Ali was not just a boxing superstar. he was well-known all over the world for his boxing brilliance and for his political activism. He was admitted to hospital in Phoenix last Monday with respiratory problems before passing away on Friday. Last night, the Ali family held a press conference and it was confirmed that the cause of death was septic shock due to unspecified natural causes.

When the news broke all over the world of his passing, there was an out pour of messages of condolences and remembrance from many, including friends, fans and former opponents of the boxing legend.


Muhammad Ali – Early Life and Career:

Muhammad Ali was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1942 under the name Cassius Marcellus Clay. He began to train at his local boxing gym when he was just twelve, he took to the ring for his first competitive fight. His amateur career went from strength to strength and Ali won the prestigious Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions in 1959.

The following year, he was selected to represent the United State’s boxing team in the Olympics which were to be held in Rome that year. Ali became the Olympic light-heavyweight champion when he defeated his Polish opponent. He returns to his native Unites States to a hero’s welcome but when he arrived back to Kentucky, he was refused a table in a restaurant, showing only too clearly that racism and segregation was still rife in the United States.

Muhammad Ali made quite the habit of predicting the downfall of his future opponents and taunting them about it in the lead up to fights. He did just that before his fight with the British boxing champion, Henry Cooper. Fate was to take a turn for the worst against Ali when he was floored by Henry Cooper during the fourth round of the fight. Amazingly, Ali recovered and got back up to continue fighting. In the fifth round, Ali regained control and won the fight when Henry Cooper was forced to stop after suffering a blow to his eye. Another opponent that Ali taunted before, during and after they fought was Sonny Liston. Six rounds in, it was clear that Sonny Liston was fighting a losing battle and he decided to end the fight there.

Muhammad Ali after defeating Sonny Liston
Muhammad Ali after defeating Sonny Liston

In 1964, Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali when he joined the Nation of Islam which at the time called for the development of the black community in the United States –  something that Ali felt incredibly passionate about. Ali decided to change his name claiming the name he had been given on his birth – Cassius Clay – was only his slave name.

In 1967, fellow American boxer Ernie Terrell addressed Muhammad Ali by his birth name during a championship fight. This did not go down well with Ali and he proceeded to give Ernie Terrell what could only be described as a ‘fifteen round battering’.


Later life, career & controversy:

The champion was unfortunately striped of his title when he refused to sign the oath of allegiance to join the United States’ Army. Not only was Ali striped of his title but he also received a five-year jail sentence which was appealed and ultimately quashed.

Three years later in 1970, Ali was allowed return to the ring where he belonged and he opened with a win over Jerry Quarry. The once unbeatable Muhammad Ali ended up as the victim of his absence from the ring when in 1971 he suffered his very first defeat of his professional career at the hands of fellow American boxer, Joe Frazier. But as they say revenge is sweet and Muhammad Ali got that revenge just three years later.

In 1974, Muhammad Ali fought arguably his greatest fight of all time when he defeated George Foreman in Zaire. Ali was given little hope before the fight but he went on to prove everybody wrong in this renowned ‘Rumble in the Jungle’. Muhammad Ali made history when he became only the second man to ever regain his heavyweight champion of the world title, aged thirty-two.

Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman - Rumble in the Jungle
Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman – Rumble in the Jungle

In the years that followed Muhammad Ali winning his third world title aged thirty-six, he suffered two defeats before deciding to call time on his incredibly successful career. In December 1941, aged forty, Muhammad Ali retired permanently from boxing.  It was not long afterwards that rumors began about the state of his health and sure enough only a few short years later, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

After his boxing career had ended, although he was battling illness, Muhammad Ali continued to travel the world. He was warmly welcomed and loved everywhere he traveled to especially in the developing countries of the world.

Muhammad Ali received many lifetime achievement awards including the BBC Sports Personality of the Century in the United Kingdom and a similar award from Sports Illustrated in the United States.

Muhammad Ali was married four times. He has seven daughters and two sons. Although in recent times, his illness was debilitating he did not let that prevent him from living his life. His dignity and how he dealt with his illness impressed his already awed fans all over the world. It is rare that a sports personality becomes such a famous figure known and loved by all. The world is in mourning after this legend’s passing. As he said in his own words:

“I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was”'
Katie Lally
After travelling all over Asia, I have just returned back home to Ireland. I've been writing for the past two years. I'm a big animal lover, a complete foodie and a Muay Thai newbie.


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