Skip to main content
Select Source:

Ali, Muhammad 1942–

Muhammad Ali 1942

Professional boxer

At a Glance

Float Like a Butterfly

Inspired by Religion

Stripped of Title

Ignored Warnings About Neurological Damage

Life After Boxing

Selected writings

Sources

Three-time world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, known for his lyrical charm and boasts as much as for his powerful fists, has moved far beyond the boxing ring in both influence and purpose. Ali won an Olympic gold medal and later tossed it into a river because he was disgusted by racism in America. As a young man he was recruited by Malcolm X to join the Nation of Islam. He refused to serve in Vietnama professional fighter willing to serve time in jail for his pacifist ideals. He has contributed to countless, diverse charities and causes. And his later years have found him interested in world politics as he has battled to keep Parkinsons disease at bay.

Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., on January 17, 1942, and was raised in a clapboard house at 3302 Grand Avenue in middle-class Louisville, Kentucky. He began boxing at the age of 12. A white Louisville patrolman named Joe Martin, who had an early television show called Tomorrows Champions, started Ali working out in Louisvilles Columbia Gym, but it was a black trainer named Fred Stoner who taught Ali the science of boxing. Stoner taught him to move with the grace of a dancer, and impressed upon him the subtle skills necessary to move beyond good and into the realm of great.

After winning an Olympic gold medal at 18, Ali signed the most lucrative contracta 50-50 splitnegotiated by a beginning professional in the history of boxing, with a 12-member group of millionaires called the Louisville Sponsoring Group. Later, he worked his way into contention for the coveted heavyweight title shot by boasting and creating media interest at a time when, by his own admission, he was only ranked number nine on the list of contenders. Even from the beginning, it was clear that Ali was his own man-quick, strong-willed, original, and witty. In 1961 he told Sports Illustrateds Gilbert Rogin, Boxing is dying because everybodys so quiet. What boxing needs is more Clays. Ali knew that his rhymes and press-grabbing claims would infuse more interest and more money into the sport of boxing, and he was his own best public relations man. In February of 1964 he told readers of Sports Illustrated, If I were like a lot of heavy weight boxers you wouldnt be reading this story right now. If you wonder what the difference between them and me is, Ill break the news: you never heard of them. Im not saying theyre not good boxers. Most of

At a Glance

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.; name changed to Muhammad Ali, 1963; born January, 17, 1942, in Louisville, KY; son of Cassius (a piano player) and Odessa Clay (both deceased); first wife, Belinda; second wife Aaisha; third wife, Veronica Porche; fourth (and current) wife, Yolanda Williams, married in 1986; children: nine (one with Yolanda); Religion: Muslim.

Former world heavyweight boxing champion. Began professional career, 1960; initially became heavyweight champ, 1964; stripped of title and boxing license over refusal to participate in the Vietnam War, 1966; retired from boxing, 1981 Appeared in film The Greatest, 1976, and television film Freedom Road

Selected honors and awards; Olympic Gold Medal in boxing, 1960; six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles; National Golden Gloves titles, 1959-60; World Heavyweight Championship, 1964-67, 1974-78, 1978-79; U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, inductee, 1983; Named the greatest heavyweight champion of all time, Ring Magazine, 1987; International Boxing Hall of Fame, inductee, 1990; Jim Thorpe Pro Sports Award, Lifetime Achievement, 1992; Muhammad Ali Museum, Louisville Galleria, opened 1995; Essence Award, 1997.

Addresses: HomeP.O. Box 187, Berrien Springs, Ml 59103.

them can fight almost as good as I can. Im just saying you never heard of them. And the reason for that is because they cannot throw the jive. Cassius Clay is a boxer who can throw the jive better than anybody.

Float Like a Butterfly

The following month Alithen still Cassius Clayfought Sonny Liston in a match of classic contenders for the heavyweight championship of the world. The Miami fight almost single-handedly restored intelligence and balance to boxing. Cassius Clay had been chanting the war cry Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee for weeks; he beat Liston in a display of beautiful, controlled boxing. Liston could hit with deadly power, but Ali utilized his skills and courage with forethought and aplomb. He won the fight to become heavyweight champion of the world. At the tender age of 22 Ali knew that he was something above and beyond a great boxer: He had marketing sense, political finesse, and a feeling of noble purpose.

Throughout his career and life, Ali has always professed to want to help other black Americansand he has, time and time again. When he returned from Italy, having just won an Olympic gold medal, he was so proud of his trophy that he wore it day and night and showed it to everyone, whether they wanted to see it or not. In the Philadelphia Inquirer Alis first wife remembered him saying I was young, black Cassius Marcellus Clay, who had won a gold medal for his country. I went to downtown Louisville to a five-and-dime store that had a soda fountain. I sat down at the counter to order a burger and soda pop. The waitress looked at me. Sorry, we dont serve coloreds, she said. I was furious. I went all the way to Italy to represent my country, won a gold medal, and now I come back to America and cant even get served at a five-and-dime store. I went to a bridge, tore the medal off my neck and threw it into the river. That gold medal didnt mean a thing to me if my black brothers and sisters were treated wrong in a country I was supposed to represent.

Inspired by Religion

While in Miami, at the age of 21, Ali was inspired by human rights activist Malcolm X to become a member of the Muslim faith. The following year Malcolm X said of Ali, as was quoted by Houston Horn in Sports Illustrated, [He] will mean more to his people than any athlete before him. He is more than [first black major-league baseball player] Jackie Robinson was, because Robinson is the white mans hero. But Cassius is the black mans hero. Do you know why? Because the white press wanted him to lose [his heavyweight championship bout] because he is a Muslim. You notice nobody cares about the religion of other athletes. But their prejudice against Clay blinded them to his ability. Twelve years later, on Face The Nation, Ali said We dont have Black Muslims, thats a press word. We have white brothers, we have brown, red, and yellow, all colors can be Muslims. Im looking for peace one day with all people. Cassius Clay, Jr., was given the name Muhammad Ali by Muslim patriarch Elijah Muhammad; it was not just a name, but a title meaning beloved of Allah, deity of the Muslim faith.

Ali retained his world heavyweight champion title in June of 1965 by again knocking out Sonny Liston, this time with a stunning right-hand punch to the side of the head. The knock-out blow was thrown with the astounding speed that separated Ali from other heavyweights; it had sufficient force to lift Listons left footupon which most of his weight was restingclear off the canvas.

As a Muslim and thus, a conscientious objector, Muhammad Ali refused to even consider going to Vietnam in 1966; a tremendous public outcry erupted against him. According to Jack Olsen in Sports Illustrated. The governor of Illinois found Clay disgusting, and the governor of Maine said Clay should be held in utter contempt by every patriotic American. An American Legion post in Miami asked people to join in condemnation of this unpatriotic, loudmouthed, bombastic individual. The Chicago Tribune waged a choleric campaign against holding the next Clay fight in Chicago. The noise became a din, the drumbeats of a holy war. TV and radio commentators, little old ladies bookmakers, and parish priests, armchair strategists at the Pentagon and politicians all over the place joined in a crescendo of get-Cassius clamor.

Stripped of Title

Although Ali had not been charged or arrested for violating the Selective Service Actmuch less convictedthe New York State Athletic Commission and World Boxing Association suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his heavyweight title in May of 1967, minutes after he officially announced that he would not submit to induction. Ali said to Sports Illustrated contributor Edwin Shrake, Im giving up my title, my wealth, maybe my future. Many great men have been tested for their religious beliefs. If I pass this test, Ill come out stronger than ever. Eventually Ali was sentenced to five years in prison, released on appeal, and his conviction overturned three years later.

In November of 1970 Ali fought Jerry Quarry in Atlanta. His victory was a symbol of release and freedom to the 5,000 people watching the fight; Ali had personally survived his vilification by much of the American public, but more, he had reclaimed his professional reputation and prominence. Four months later Ali had the world as his audience when he went up against Joe Frazier in Manila. There he fell from invincibility; suddenly Frazier reigned as heavyweight champ. Man, I hit him with punches thatd bring down the walls of a city, Frazier said to Mark Kram in Sports Illustrated Ali responded, It was like death. Closest thing to dyin that I know of. On September 10, 1973, Frazier won a rematch with Ken Norton and continued to reign as heavyweight champion. Returning with a vengeance, however, Ali fought Frazier again in 1974, won the match, and replaced his competitor as the world heavweight champion. Ali fought Frazier once again in October of 1975, won that match, and secured his title. Taking time to reflect on the tumult of his fifteen-year boxing career, Ali co-wrote his autobiographycharacteristically titled The Greatest My Own Story in 1975.

In 1982 Dr. Dennis Cope, director of the Medical Ambulatory Care Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, began treating Ali for Parkinsons syndrome; Cope and colleague Dr. Stanley Fahn later theorized in the Chicago Tribune that Ali was suffering, more precisely, from Pugilistic Parkinsonism, brought on by repetitive trauma to the headand that only an autopsy could confirm their suspicions. After losing a 1980 title bout to Larry Holmes, Ali had exhibited sluggishness and was misdiagnosed as having a thyroid condition; he was given a thyroid hormone. When Dr. Cope made the connection between Alis decreasing motor skills and Parkinsons disease, he prescribed Sinemet (L-dopa). Ali was shortly restored to his previous level of energy and awareness; as long as he took his medication regularly, he was able to keep the disease in check. In 1988 Ali told New York Times Magazine contributor Peter Tauber: Ive got Parkinsons syndrome. Im in no pain. If I was in perfect healthif I had won my last two fightsif I had no problem, people would be afraid of me. Now they feel sorry for me. They thought I was Superman. Now they can say Hes human, like us. He has problems.

Ignored Warnings About Neurological Damage

In 1984 another of Alis medical confidantes, Dr. Martin D. Ecker, ventured in the Boston Globe that Ali should have quit boxing long before he finally didfor the second and final timein 1981 after losing to Trevor Berbick. His bout with Berbick was his 61st and final fight. By then Ali had been showing signs of neurological damage for over a year. Alis former doctor, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, told the fighter to quit in 1977 when he first saw signs of Alis reflexes slowing down. Seven years later, Pacheco, a consultant and boxing commentator for NBC-TV, explained to Betsy Lehman in the Boston Globe why he feels Ali didnt quit boxing in 1977: The most virulent infection in the human race is the standing ovation. Once youve seen that, you cant get off the stage. Once you feel that recognition the roar of 50,000 people, you just dont want to give it up. When Ali initially surrendered his title in 1979, he was paid $250,000 to quit, but he eventually returned to his sport, perhaps as Pacheco suggested, because the recognition had become habit-forming.

Toward the end of Alis boxing career, and afterward, his ambitions took a decided turn toward statesmanship. In 1980 he cast his lot with the Democratic Party, supporting then-Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter. In August of that year, while in intense training for the Holmes fight, he found time to work the floor of the Democratic National Convention in New York City. He also functioned as something of a diplomat in February of 1985 when he attempted to secure the release of four kidnapped Americans in Lebanon; unfortunately, he and his three advisers were not successful.

During his career in the ring Ali made more than $50 million, two thirds of which went to managerial expenses and taxes. He said to New York Times Magazine contributor Tauber in 1988, I never talk about boxing. It just served its purpose. I was only about 11 or 12 years old when I said Im gonna get famous so I can help my people. Indicating his continuing desire to help people, in 1990 Ali visited Our Childrens Foundation, Inc., on Manhattans 125th Street. According to Bill Gallo in the New York Daily News, he addressed the children there, saying, The sun has a purpose. The moon has a purpose. The snow has a purpose. Cows have a purpose. You were born for a purpose. You have to find your purpose. Go to school. Learn to read and write. What is your purpose, your occupation? Find your purpose. What do you have to find? Purpose!, they shouted gleefully in unison. True to form, one of Alis favored inscriptions when signing autographs is Love is the net where hearts are caught like fish.

Life After Boxing

Although Parkinsons syndrome has slowed Ali down, he still remain activeraising money for the Muhammad Ali Foundation and frequently appearing at sports tributes and fund-raisers. Muhammads wife Lonnie believes Muhammad knows he has this illness for a reason. Its not by chance. Parkinsons disease has made him a more spiritual person. Muhammad believes God gave it to him to bring him to another level, to create another destiny. she stated in People.

During the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, 3.5 billion people watched on television as three-time heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali slowly ascended the stadium steps with trembling hands to ignite the Olympic Flame. Everyone was deeply touched, however, No one was more moved than Ali himself. He kept turning it [the torch] in his hands and looking at it. He knows now that people wont slight his message because of his impairment. said his wife Lonnie in People.

Muhammad has been blessed to meet with important dignitaries, including with President Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II, Nelson Mandela, and Pope John Paul II. His travels are his main source of incomecharging as much as $200,000 for appearances. He usually travels 275 days out of the year. Although he enjoys his missionary work and public appearances, Alis greatest pleasure is when he is at home in Berrien Springs, Michigan with his familywife Yolanda and his adopted son Asaad Amin.

In Berrien Springs, he lives a modest life in a house at the end of the road on an old farm. He has a pool and a pond and a security gate with an intercom. According to Kim Forburger, Alis assistant, Hes the only man I know where the kids come to the gate and say Can Muhammad come out and play?

When asked if he has any regrets?, Ali responds, My children, I never got to raise them because I was always boxing and because of divorce, he said in People. When asked is he sorry he ever got into the ring?, he responded, If I wasnt a boxer, I wouldnt be famous. If I wasnt famous, I wouldnt be able to do what Im doing now.

Selected writings

(With Richard Durham) The Greatest: My Own Story, Random House, 1975.

Sources

Atlanta Journal and Constitution, December 13, 1988.

Boston Globe, October 1, 1984.

Chicago Tribune, October 9, 1984.

Ebony, April 1969.

Face the Nation (transcript of CBS-TV program), May 2, 1976.

Newsweek, June 22, 1987.

New York Daily News, February 2, 1989.

New York Post, July 14, 1987.

New York Times Magazine, July 17, 1988.

People, Jan 13, 1997, p. 40.

Philadelphia Inquirer, August 12, 1990.

Spin, October 1991.

Sports Illustrated, December 20, 1976; April 25, 1988.

Washington Post, June 9, 1991.

Whos Who among African Americans, 10th edition, Gale Research, 1997.

B. Kimberly Taylor

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ali, Muhammad 1942–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ali, Muhammad 1942–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/ali-muhammad-1942

"Ali, Muhammad 1942–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/ali-muhammad-1942

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Ali, Muhammad

Muhammad Ali

1942-

American boxer

His nickname, "The Greatest," almost says it all. The fact that it was self-anointed says the rest. Today, Muhammad Ali is the universally admired three-time heavyweight champion, lauded by boxing fans and civil rights leaders, both in America and throughout the world. He is remembered respectfully as the man of principle who threw away his Olympic medal in disgust at racism and who almost threw away his career when he refused to fight an unjust war in Vietnam. He is remembered fondly for his prowess in the ring and his consummate showmanship before the matches. He is an authentic American hero, struggling valiantly in his greatest battle, against Parkinson's Disease. When he was in his prime, he sparked as much controversy as affection. He was an angry Black Muslim and student of the radical Malcolm X, who was almost sent to jail for his views. The transformation of Ali is a remarkable testament to the man and his inner strength.

A Stolen Bicycle

Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. Unlike most future champions, his parents, Cassius and Odessa (Grady) Clay, were middle-class and he lived in the respectable part of town. His father was a sign and mural painter, and his mother was a domestic. Sundays, the family, including younger brother Rudolph (now Rahaman Ali), would troop to the Mount Zion Baptist Church, and weekdays he attended DuValle Junior High School, and then Central High School. Ali was never a good student, and he confessed in later years that he has always been a slow reader.

At the age of 12, a curious incident set young Cassius Clay on a new path. On an October afternoon he rode his new bike to the Columbia Auditorium. Later, when he went back to get it, it had been stolen. Someone told him there was a police officer in the basement, so Clay went down there. The basement turned out to be a boxing gymthe officer, Joe Martin, was a boxing enthusiast with his own gym. After listening to his volley of threats against whoever stole the bike, Martin invited him to come around to his gym and learn something about boxing.

Six weeks after he started training with Joe Martin, Clay fought and won his first bout. Over the next few years of his training, Martin became more and more impressed, not only with Clay's speed and strength, but even more by his mental quickness and his ability to take a punch without the twin dangers of getting mad or going into a panic. In high school, Clay became a very successful amateur boxer, winning six Kentucky Golden Gloves Championships and two nationals. By the time he graduated, he had 100 wins and only 8 losses. Throughout the 1950s, he also appeared on a local television program Tomorrow's Champions. He was paid four dollars for each televised match. Then, shortly after graduation, he won a gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics in light-heavy-weight boxing. He decided to turn pro.

The Louisville Lip

Almost immediately, Clay signed one of the most lucrative contracts in boxing history, which guaranteed a 50/50 split in his earnings with eleven Kentucky millionaires

known as the Louisville Sponsoring Group. He hired Angelo Dundee as his first professional trainer, and easily dispatched his opponent, Tunney Hunsacker, in his first professional match, on October 29, 1960. The purse was $2,000. Over the next 4 years he fought and won 19 professional matches, but it wasn't this alone that made him a heavyweight contender.

Early on, Cassius Clay mastered the fine art of publicity. At the Olympics he began inventing rhymes that predicted how he would do in a match, and he brought this skill home with him. Before long he was something of a media darling, dismissed by some as "The Louisville Lip," but always good for sports copy. He understood the value of that attention, and as he told Sports Illustrated in 1964, "If you wonder what the difference between [other boxers] and me is, I'll break the news: you never heard of them. I'm not saying they're not good boxers. I'm just saying you never heard of them." Before long, people were clamoring for a Cassius Clay shot at the heavyweight title.

Before long, Sonny Liston bowed to the pressure and agreed to fight Clay in Miami. In the weeks leading up to the match, Clay turned up the volume on the traditional hype, rhyming and hurling insults at Liston. About this time, he began using the chant "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." And on February 25, 1964, backed up his talk by defeating the "unbeatable" Sonny Liston. At 22, Cassius Clay was the World Heavyweight Champion

A Controversial Champ

Something else happened in Miami in 1964. Inspired by Malcolm X, Cassius Clay joined the Nation of Islam, and renounced his "slave name" in favor of Muhammad Ali, "Beloved of Allah." The name had been personally bestowed upon him by Elijah Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam. Realizing how this would affect people's view of him, he kept his conversion secret before the match, fearing the news might cost him his shot at the title. But soon after the fight, he went public with the news.

For many Americans this seemed like some kind of betrayal. Black Muslims were often feared and hated, as radicals, as dangerous, as un-American. And now the heavyweight champ, the beloved Cassius Clay was one of them. Or rather Muhammad Ali, a name that sounded foreign, maybe subversive, to Americans in the 1960s. And then Muhammad Ali came out against the Vietnam War, refusing to even consider going over there if he was drafted.

Ali's remarks caused a national uproar. In April of 1967, when he refused induction into the U.S. Army, on religious grounds, politicians and veterans groups called for his imprisonment. In fact, he was arrested and ultimately sentenced to five years in prison, but he was freed pending appeal. Then boxing officialdom stepped in. The World Boxing Association stripped him of his heavyweight title, and the New York State Athletic Commission banned him from boxing. Every other state commission soon joined them. Muhammad Ali was suddenly out of a title and out of a job.

In and Out of the Wilderness

For three-and-a-half years, Muhammad Ali endured the public outcry and the loss of his livelihood, and numerous death threats, while his case wound through the courts. He managed to support himself by public speaking engagements on college campuses. Finally, in June of 1970, the Supreme Court reversed his draft-dodging conviction on a technicality. In September of that same year the NAACP successfully sued the New York State Athletic Commission for the restoration of Ali's boxing license.

Chronology

1942 Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, January 17, in Louisville, Kentucky
1954 Begins boxing
1960 Wins gold medal, Rome Olympics, light-heavyweight boxing
1960 First professional boxing match, defeats Tunney Hunsacker, October 29
1963 Converts to Islam, inspired by Malcolm X
1964 Takes World Heavyweight Championship from Sonny Liston
1964 Announces name change, to Muhammad Ali
1964 Marries Sonji Roi
1966 Divorces Sonji
1966 Refuses to go to Vietnam
1967 Stripped of boxing license and heavyweight title by New York State Athletic Commission and World Boxing Association, May
1967 Convicted of draft-dodging, sentenced to five years in prison (but released on appeal)
1967 Marries Belinda Boyd
1970 Conviction overturned
1970 Returns to the ring, against Jerry Quarry, November
1971 Loses to Joe Frazier in title match, February
1974 Beats Joe Frazier in rematch, becomes World Heavyweight Champion again
1974 Defeats George Foreman in "Rumble in the Jungle" to become World Heavyweight Champion again
1975 Defeats Joe Frazier again in "Thrilla in Manilla," often considered the greatest boxing match ever
1976 Divorces Belinda
1977 Marries Veronica Proche
1978 Loses title to Leon Spinks
1978 Reclaims title from Leon Spinks in rematch
1979 Retires from professional boxing
1980 Returns to professional boxing, loses to Larry Holmes in WBC title match
1981 In last professional boxing match, loses to Trevor Berbick
1982 Diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease
1985 Visits Lebanon in attempt to secure release of hostages, February
1985 Founds World Organization for Right, Liberty and Dignity (WORLD)
1985 Divorces Veronica
1986 Marries Yolanda "Lonnie" Williams
1990 Visits Iraq in successful attempt to secure release of American hostages
1996 Chosen to light Olympic Torch in Atlanta
2000 Wins WBA title from John Ruiz
2001 Establishes Muhammad Ali Center, Louisville, Kentucky

Awards and Accomplishments

1959 National Golden Gloves Light Heavyweight Champion
1959 National Amateur Athletic Union champion
1960 National Golden Gloves Light Heavyweight Champion
1960 National Amateur Athletic Union champion
1960 Gold medal, Rome Olympics, light-heavyweight boxing
1964-67 World Heavyweight Champion
1970 Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Award
1974 Sportsman of the Year, Sports Illustrated
1974 Fighter of the Year, Boxing Writers Association
1974-78 World Heavyweight Champion
1978-79 World Heavyweight Champion
1979 Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Texas Southern Univesity
1979 Street named after him in Louisville, Kentucky
1985 Recognized for long, meritorious service, World Boxing Association
1987 Elected to Boxing Hall of Fame
1990 Inducted into International Boxing Hall of Fame
1996 Lights Olympic torch, Atlanta
1997 Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, ESPN
1997 Essence Living Legend Award

It was a heady victory, and the beginning of a long climb that would make Muhammad Ali a national hero once again. In November, 1970, in Atlanta, he fought his first professional match in almost four years, knocking out Jerry Quarry in the third round. In March of 1971,

he returned to New York to fight Joe Frazier , who had risen to the world heavyweight championship in Ali's absence. The fight between the two "champions" was long anticipated, and both were promised an unprecedented $2.5 million. After a long and bruising battle, Joe Frazier knocked Muhammad Ali down in the fifteenth round. Ali managed to get up from the staggering blow, but he lost the match on points. It was Ali's first defeat as a professional boxer.

On January 28, 1974, Ali returned to Madison Square Garden for a rematch with Joe Frazier. By this time, Frazier had lost the crown and Ali had been beaten once again, by Ken Norton. But the fight was highly anticipated by boxing fans. Again, it was a grueling match, with both men taking a lot of punishment. But this time the decision went to Muhammad Ali, who had earned his shot against the new champion, George Foreman .

In one of the biggest spectacles in boxing history, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman met in Kinshasha, Zaire, for the "Rumble in the Jungle." The very air of Africa seemed to give Ali a lift, and wherever he went, enthusiastic crowds followed him. The setting had the opposite effect on George Foreman, in those days known as "the surly champ." The fight took place on October 30, 1974, before 60,000 spectators and millions of payper-view customers. Most experts expected Ali to fall to the legendary Foreman punch, but after absorbing blows for six rounds, Muhammad Ali sent an exhausted George Foreman to the mat in the eighth round. Muhammad Ali was back on top.

The next year, in September of 1975, after easily besting such lesser lights as the "Bayonne Bleeder," Ali met Frazier one last time, for the "Thrilla in Manilla." Many look back on this as the finest boxing match in history. As Gerald Suster wrote in Champions of the Ring, "In the first five rounds, Ali did enough to stop or even kill any strong heavyweight. In the succeeding five rounds, Frazier broke through Ali's guard to pound him to the body and whack him to the head, in turn doing enough to stop or even kill any strong heavyweight." Finally, in the 11th round, Frazier's trainer, Eddie Futch, threw in the towel. Afterwards, a number of fans signed a petition asking that these two never fight each other again, so brutal had it been.

Later Years

Although this moment might have been a good time to retire, Ali soldiered on. In 1978 Leon Spinks took the title away, but later that year Ali reclaimed it, making him a three-times champion. Finally, on June 26, 1979, Ali retired from professional boxing at the age of 37. His retirement did not last long. Ali had grown used to a very lavish and lifestyle and within a few years his fortune had dwindled. So in 1980 Ali returned to the ring, battling Larry Holmes for the World Boxing Council title with a guaranteed purse of $8 million. Holmes won a technical knockout in the eleventh round. A year later, Ali lost to Trevor Burdick. This time he retired for good, at the age of 40.

By this time, Ali was suffering from Parkinson's Disease. After the Holmes fight, people had noticed a change in Ali's health. At first he'd been misdiagnosed with a thyroid condition, but in 1982, the Parkinson's diagnosis was confirmed by medical tests. Doctors speculated that he might have contracted the illness from too many blows to the head. It was a sad revelation for Ali, but he was grateful that the disease was not contagious, so he could continue to have contact with his many fans throughout the world.

Ali's other interests have included painting, originally inspired by his father, and in 1979 he put on a oneman show of his works. He has also been called upon to perform diplomatic missionsin 1980, he toured Africa in an attempt to drum up support for President Carter's boycott of the Moscow Olympics. In 1985 he traveled to Lebanon in an unsuccessful attempt to secure the release of U.S. hostages, and in 1990 he traveled to Baghdad, Iraq, on a similar mission, this time successfully. In 1996, he was chosen to light the torch at the Atlanta Olympics, after carrying it for the last lap.

With so much focus on his boxing career and the pressures of his public life, Ali has not always had the calmest private life. He has been divorced three times, and he currently lives with his fourth wife, Lonnie. Much to her father's displeasure, his daughter Leila has followed Ali's footsteps into the boxing ring.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: P.O. Box 187, Berrien Springs, MI 59103.

Where Is He Now?

Today, Muhammad Ali is a world-renowned celebrity, who has weathered the storms of terrible controversies and emerged as a national icon. Even the greatest modern boxers live in his shadow. At the same time, he stands as a symbol of principle in the face of adversity, a crusader for civil rights who risked everything to maintain his religious freedom and his right to dissent from U.S. government policy. Even while struggling against Parkinson's Disease, which plays havoc with his speech and coordination, he continues to travel around the world, most recently as a UN peace envoy to Afghanistan. He has also worked at establishing the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, a non-private community center, which is scheduled to open in 2003.

SELECTED WRITINGS BY ALI:

(With Richard Durham) The Greatest: My Own Story, New York: Random House, 1975.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Ali, Muhammad and Richard Durham. The Greatest: My Own Story. New York: Random House, 1975.

Cottrell, John. The Story of Muhammad Ali, Who Once Was Cassius Clay. London: Muller, 1967.

Hauser, Thomas. Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.

Olsen, Jack. Black is Best: The Riddle of Cassius Clay. New York: Putnam, 1967.

Remnick, David. King of the World. New York: Random House, 1998.

Suster, Gerald. Champions of the Ring. London: Robson Books, 1994.

Sketch by Robert Winters

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ali, Muhammad." Notable Sports Figures. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ali, Muhammad." Notable Sports Figures. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/sports/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ali-muhammad

"Ali, Muhammad." Notable Sports Figures. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/sports/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ali-muhammad

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Ali, Muhammad 1942–

Muhammad Ali 1942

Former heavyweight boxing champion

At a Glance

Inspired by Religion

Stripped of Title

Ignored Warnings About Neurological Damage

Selected writings

Sources

Three-time world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, known for his lyrical charm and boasts as much as for his powerful fists, has moved far beyond the boxing ring in both influence and purpose. Ali won an Olympic gold medal for the United States but was later a witness to bitter racism in his own country. As a young man he was recruited by Malcolm X to join the Nation of Islam. He refused to serve in Vietnama professional fighter willing to serve time in jail for his pacifist ideals. He has contributed to countless, diverse charities and causes. And his later years have found him interested in world politics as he has battled to keep Parkinsons disease at bay.

Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., on January 17, 1942, and was raised in a clapboard house in middle-class Louisville, Kentucky. Known as a shy and somewhat old-fashioned youth, he began boxing at the age of 12. A white Louisville patrolman named Joe Martin, who trained local amateur boxers, started Ali working out in Louisvilles Columbia Gym, but it was a black trainer named Fred Stoner who taught Ali the science of boxing. Stoner taught him to move with the grace of a dancer, and impressed upon him the subtle skills necessary to move beyond good and into the realm of great.

After winning an Olympic gold medal at 18, Ali signed the most lucrative contracta 50-50 splitnegotiated by a beginning professional in the history of boxing, with a 12-member group of millionaires called the Louisville Sponsoring Group. Later, he worked his way into contention for the coveted heavyweight title shot by boasting and creating media interest at a time when, by his own admission, he was only ranked number nine on the list of contenders. Even from the beginning, it was clear that Ali was his own manquick, strong-willed, original, and witty. In 1961 he told Sports Illustrateds Gilbert Rogin, Boxing is dying because everybodys so quiet. What boxing needs is more Clays. Ali knew that his rhymes and press-grabbing claims would infuse more interest and more money into the sport of boxing, and he was his own best public relations man. In February of 1964 he told readers of Sports Illustrated, If I were like a lot of heavyweight boxers you wouldnt be reading this story right now. If you wonder what the difference between them and me is, Ill break the news: you never heard of them. Im not saying theyre not good

At a Glance

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.; name changed to Muhammad Ali, 1963; born January, 17, 1942, in Louisville, KY; son of Cassius (a piano player) and Odessa Clay; first wife named Belinda; second wife named Aaisha; married Veronica Porche; married Yolanda Williams, 1986; children: (third marriage) Hana, Laila; three others. Religion: Muslim.

Former world heavyweight boxing champion. Began professional career, 1960; initially became heavyweight champ, 1964; stripped of title and boxing license over refusal to participate in the Vietnam War, 1966; retired from boxing, 1981. Appeared in film The Greatest, 1976, and television film Freedom Road.

Awards: Olympic Gold Medal in boxing, 1960; six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles; National Golden Gloves titles, 1959-60; world heavyweight championship, 1964-67, 1974-78, 1978-79.

Addresses: HomeDeer Park, Ml.

boxers. Most of them can fight almost as good as I can. Im just saying you never heard of them. And the reason for that is because they cannot throw the jive. Cassius Clay is a boxer who can throw the jive better than anybody.

The following month Alithen still Cassius Clayfought Sonny Liston in a match of classic contenders for the heavyweight championship of the world. The Miami fight almost single-handedly restored intelligence and balance to boxing. Cassius Clay had been chanting the war cry Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee for weeks; he beat Liston in a display of beautiful, controlled boxing. Liston could hit with deadly power, but Ali utilized his skills and courage with forethought and aplomb. He won the fight to become heavyweight champion of the world. At the tender age of 22 Ali knew that he was something above and beyond a great boxer: He had marketing sense, political finesse, and a feeling of noble purpose.

Throughout his career and life, Ali has always professed to want to help other black Americansand he has, time and time again. When he returned from Italy, having just won an Olympic gold medal, he was so proud of his trophy that he wore it day and night and showed it to everyone, whether they wanted to see it or not. In the Philadelphia Inquirer Alis first wife remembered him saying I was young, black Cassius Marcellus Clay, who had won a gold medal for his country. I went to downtown Louisville to a five-and-dime store that had a soda fountain. I sat down at the counter to order a burger and soda pop. The waitress looked at me. Sorry, we dont serve coloreds, she said. I was furious. I went all the way to Italy to represent my country, won a gold medal, and now I come back to America and cant even get served at a five-and-dime store. That gold medal didnt mean a thing to me if my black brothers and sisters were treated wrong in a country I was supposed to represent.

Inspired by Religion

While in Miami, at the age of 21, Ali was inspired by human rights activist Malcolm X to become a member of the Muslim faith. The following year Malcolm X said of Ali, as quoted by Houston Horn in Sports Illustrated, [He] will mean more to his people than any athlete before him. He is more than [first black major-league baseball player] Jackie Robinson was, because Robinson is the white mans hero. But Cassius is the black mans hero. Do you know why? Because the white press wanted him to lose [his heavyweight championship bout] because he is a Muslim. You notice nobody cares about the religion of other athletes. But their prejudice against Clay blinded them to his ability. Twelve years later, on Face The Nation, Ali said We dont have Black Muslims, thats a press word. We have white brothers, we have brown, red, and yellow, all colors can be Muslims. Im looking for peace one day with all people. Cassius Clay, Jr., was given the name Muhammad Ali by Muslim patriarch Elijah Muhammad; it was not just a name, but a title meaning beloved of Allah, deity of the Muslim faith.

Ali retained his world heavyweight champion title in June of 1965 by again knocking out Sonny Liston, this time with a stunning right-hand punch to the side of the head. The knock-out blow was thrown with the astounding speed that separated Ali from other heavyweights; it had sufficient force to lift Listons left footupon which most of his weight was restingclear off the canvas.

As a Muslim and thus, a conscientious objector, Muhammad Ali refused to even consider going to Vietnam in 1966; a tremendous public outcry erupted against him. According to Jack Olsen in Sports Illustrated, The governor of Illinois found Clay disgusting, and the governor of Maine said Clay should be held in utter contempt by every patriotic American. An American Legion post in Miami asked people to join in condemnation of this unpatriotic, loudmouthed, bombastic individual. The Chicago Tribune waged a choleric campaign against holding the next Clay fight in Chicago. The noise became a din, the drumbeats of a holy war. TV and radio commentators, little old ladies bookmakers, and parish priests, armchair strategists at the Pentagon and politicians all over the place joined in a crescendo of get-Cassius clamor.

Stripped of Title

Although Ali had not been charged or arrested for violating the Selective Service Actmuch less convictedthe New York State Athletic Commission and World Boxing Association suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his heavyweight title in May of 1967, minutes after he officially announced that he would not submit to induction. Ali said to Sports Illustrated contributor Edwin Shrake, Im giving up my title, my wealth, maybe my future. Many great men have been tested for their religious beliefs. If I pass this test, Ill come out stronger than ever. Eventually Ali was sentenced to five years in prison, released on appeal, and his conviction overturned three years later.

In November of 1970 Ali fought Jerry Quarry in Atlanta. His victory was a symbol of release and freedom to the 5,000 people watching the fight; Ali had personally survived his vilification by much of the American public, but more, he had reclaimed his professional reputation and prominence. Four months later Ali had the world as his audience when he went up against Joe Frazier in Manila. There he fell from invincibility; suddenly Frazier reigned as heavyweight champ. Man, I hit him with punches thatd bring down the walls of a city, Frazier said to Mark Kram in Sports Illustrated. Ali responded, It was like death. Closest thing to dyin that I know of. On September 10, 1973, Frazier won a rematch with Ken Norton and continued to reign as heavyweight champion. Returning with a vengeance, however, Ali fought Frazier again in 1974, won the match, and replaced his competitor as the world heavweight champion. Ali fought Frazier once again in October of 1975, won that match, and secured his title. Taking time to reflect on the tumult of his fifteen-year boxing career, Ali co-wrote his autobiographycharacteristically titled The Greatest My Own Story in 1975.

In 1982 Dr. Dennis Cope, director of the Medical Ambulatory Care Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, began treating Ali for Parkinsons syndrome; Cope and colleague Dr. Stanley Fahn later theorized in the Chicago Tribune that Ali was suffering, more precisely, from Pugilistic Parkinsonism, brought on by repetitive trauma to the headand that only an autopsy could confirm their suspicions. After losing a 1980 title bout to Larry Holmes, Ali exhibited sluggishness and was misdiagnosed as having a thyroid condition; he was given a thyroid hormone. When Dr. Cope made the connection between Alis decreasing motor skills and Parkinsons disease, he prescribed Sinemet (L-dopa). Ali was shortly restored to his previous level of energy and awareness; as long as he took his medication regularly, he was able to keep the disease in check. In 1988 Ali tld New York Times Magazine contributor Peter Tauber: Ive got Parkinsons syndrome. Im in no pain. If I was in perfect healthif I had won my last two fightsif I had no problem, people would be afraid of me. Now they feel sorry for me. They thought I was Superman. Now they can say Hes human, like us. He has problems.

Ignored Warnings About Neurological Damage

In 1984 another of Alis medical confidantes, Dr. Martin D. Ecker, ventured in the Boston Globe that Ali should have quit boxing long before he finally didfor the second and final timein 1981 after losing to Trevor Berbick. His bout with Berbick was his 61st and final fight. By then Ali had been showing signs of neurological damage for over a year. Alis former doctor, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, told the fighter to quit in 1977 when he first saw signs of Alis reflexes slowing down. Seven years later, Pacheco, a consultant and boxing commentator for NBC-TV, explained to Betsy Lehman in the Boston Globe why he feels Ali didnt quit boxing in 1977: The most virulent infection in the human race is the standing ovation. Once youve seen that, you cant get off the stage. Once you feel that recognition the roar of 50,000 people, you just dont want to give it up. When Ali initially surrendered his title in 1979, he was paid $250,000 to quit, but he eventually returned to his sport, perhaps as Pacheco suggested, because the recognition had become habit-forming.

Toward the end of Alis boxing career, and afterward, his ambitions took a decided turn toward statesmanship. In 1980 he cast his lot with the Democratic Party, supporting then-Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter. In August of that year, while in intense training for the Holmes fight, he found time to work the floor of the Democratic National Convention in New York City. He also functioned as something of a diplomat in February of 1985 when he attempted to secure the release of four kidnapped Americans in Lebanon; unfortunately, he and his three advisers were not successful.

During his career in the ring Ali made more than $50 million, two-thirds of which went to managerial expenses and taxes. He said to New York Times Magazine contributor Tauber in 1988, I never talk about boxing. It just served its purpose. I was only about 11 or 12 years old when I said Im gonna get famous so I can help my people. Indicating his continuing desire to help people, in 1990 Ali visited Our Childrens Foundation, Inc., on Manhattans 125th Street. According to Bill Gallo in the New York Daily News, he addressed the children there, saying, The sun has a purpose. The moon has a purpose. The snow has a purpose. Cows have a purpose. You were born for a purpose. You have to find your purpose. Go to school. Learn to read and write. What is your purpose, your occupation? Find your purpose. What do you have to find? Purpose!, they shouted gleefully in unison. True to form, one of Alis favored inscriptions when signing autographs is Love is the net where hearts are caught like fish.

Selected writings

(With Richard Durham) The Greatest: My Own Story, Random House, 1975.

Sources

Atlanta Journal and Constitution, December 13, 1988.

Boston Globe, October 1, 1984.

Chicago Tribune, October 9, 1984.

Ebony, April 1969.

Face the Nation (transcript of CBS-TV program), May 2, 1976.

Newsweek, June 22, 1987.

New York Daily News, February 2, 1989.

New York Post, July 14, 1987.

New York Times Magazine, July 17, 1988.

Philadelphia Inquirer, August 12, 1990.

Spin, October 1991.

Sports Illustrated, December 20, 1976; April 25, 1988; January 13, 1992.

Washington Post, June 9, 1991.

B. Kimberly Taylor

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ali, Muhammad 1942–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ali, Muhammad 1942–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/ali-muhammad-1942-0

"Ali, Muhammad 1942–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/ali-muhammad-1942-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Ali, Muhammad

Muhammad Ali

Born: January 17, 1942
Louisville, Kentucky

African American boxer

Muhammad Ali was the only professional boxer to win the heavy-weight championship three times. He provided leadership and an example for African American men and women around the world with his political and religious views.

Early life

Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky, the first of Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. and Odessa Grady Clay's two sons. His father was a sign painter who also loved to act, sing, and dance; his mother worked as a cleaning lady when money was tight. Ali began boxing at the age of twelve. His bicycle had been stolen, and he reported the theft to a policeman named Joe Martin, who gave boxing lessons in a local youth center. Martin invited Ali to try boxing and soon saw that he had talent.

Martin began to feature Ali on his local television show, "Tomorrow's Champions," and he started Ali working out at Louisville's Columbia Gym. An African American trainer named Fred Stoner taught Ali the science of boxing. Among the many things Ali learned was how to move with the grace and ease of a dancer. Although his schoolwork suffered, Ali devoted all of his time to boxing and improved steadily.

"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee"

As a teenager Ali won both the national Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and Golden Gloves championships. At the age of eighteen he competed in the 1960 Olympic games held in Rome, Italy, winning the gold medal in the lightheavyweight division. This led to a contract with a group of millionaires called the Louisville Sponsors Group. It was the biggest contract ever signed by a professional boxer. Ali worked his way through a series of professional victories, using a style that combined speed with great punching power. He was described by one of his handlers as having the ability to "float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee."

Ali's unique style of boasting, rhyming, and expressing confidence brought him considerable media attention as he moved toward a chance to fight for the world heavyweight boxing championship. When he began to write poems predicting his victories in different fights he became known as "The Louisville Lip." Both the attention and his skill as a fighter paid off. In February 1964, when he was only twenty-two years old, he fought and defeated Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship of the world.

Religious change

Inspired by Muslim spokesman Malcolm X (19251965), Ali began to follow the Black Muslim faith (a group that supports a separate black nation) and announced that he had changed his name to Cassius X. This was at a time when the struggle for civil rights was at a peak and the Muslims had emerged as a controversial (causing disputes) but important force in the African American community. Later the Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad (18971975) gave him the name Muhammad Ali, which means "beloved of Allah." (Allah is the god worshipped by Muslims.) In his first title defense in May 1965 Ali defeated Sonny Liston with a first-round knockout. (Many called it a phantom punch because it was so fast and powerful that few watching the fight even saw it.) Ali successfully defended his title eight more times.

In April 1967 Ali was drafted into military service during the Vietnam War (195775; a war fought in an unsuccessful attempt to stop Communist North Vietnam from overtaking South Vietnam). He claimed that as a minister of the Black Muslim religion he was not obligated to serve. The press criticized him as unpatriotic, and the New York State Athletic Commission and World Boxing Association suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his heavyweight title. Ali told Sports Illustrated, "I'm giving up my title, my wealth, maybe my future. Many great men have been tested for their religious beliefs. If I pass this test, I'll come out stronger than ever." Ali was finally sentenced to five years in prison but was released on appeal, and his conviction was thrown out three years later by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Back in the ring

Ali returned to the ring and beat Jerry Quarry in 1970. Five months later he lost to Joe Frazier (1944), who had replaced him as heavyweight champion when his title had been stripped. Ali regained the championship for the first time when he defeated George Foreman (1949), who had beaten Frazier for the title, in a fight held in Zaire in 1974. Ali referred to this match as the "Rumble in the Jungle." Ali fought Frazier several more times, including a fight in 1974 staged in New York City and a bout held in the Philippines in 1975, which Ali called the "Thrilla in Manila." Ali won both matches to regain his title as the world heavyweight champion. In 1975 Sports Illustrated magazine named Ali its "Sportsman of the Year."

Ali now used a new style of boxing, one that he called his "rope-a-dope." He would let his opponents wear themselves down while he rested, often against the ropes; he would then be strong and lash out in the later rounds. Ali successfully defended his title ten more times. He held the championship until Leon Spinks defeated him in February 1978 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Seven months later Ali regained the heavyweight title by defeating Spinks in New Orleans, Louisiana, becoming the first boxer in history to win the heavyweight championship three times. At the end of his boxing career he was slowed by a condition related to Parkinson's disease (a disease of the nervous system that results in shaking and weakness of the muscles). Ali's last fight (there were sixty-one in all) took place in 1981.

Role as statesman

As Ali's boxing career ended, he became involved in social causes and politics. He campaigned for Jimmy Carter (1924) and other Democratic political candidates and took part in the promotion of a variety of political causes addressing poverty and the needs of children. He even tried to win the release of four kidnapped Americans in Lebanon in 1985. As a result, his image changed and he became respected as a statesman. At the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, the world and his country honored Ali by choosing him to light the Olympic torch during the opening ceremonies.

Ali remains in the public eye even as he continues to suffer from the effects of Parkinson's disease. In 1998 he announced he was leaving an experimental treatment program in Boca Raton, Florida, claiming that the program's leader was unfairly using his name to gain publicity. In 1999 Ali became the first boxer to ever appear on a Wheaties cereal box. Later that year he supported a new law to clean up the business side of boxing. After the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, Ali agreed to record sixty-second announcements for airing in Muslim countries to show that the United States remained friendly to those of the Muslim faith. Among many documentaries and books about Ali, a film version of his life, Ali, was released in December 2001.

For More Information

Myers, Walter Dean. The Greatest: Muhammad Ali. New York: Scholastic Press, 2001.

Remnick, David. King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero. New York: Random House, 1998.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ali, Muhammad." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ali, Muhammad." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ali-muhammad-0

"Ali, Muhammad." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ali-muhammad-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay, 1942) was the only professional boxer to win the heavyweight championship three times. With his outspoken political and religious views he has provided leadership and an example for African American men and women around the world.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay on January 17, 1942, at Louisville, Kentucky, Muhammad Ali began boxing at the age of 12. A white policeman named Joe Martin featured Ali on his early television show, "Tomorrow's Champions," and started him working out at Louisville's Columbia Gym. An African American trainer named Fred Stoner taught Ali the science of boxing, instructing him to move with the grace and subtlety of a dancer.

"Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee"

Ali built an impressive amateur record which led him to both the national Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and Golden Gloves championships. At the age of 18 he competed in the 1960 Olympic games held at Rome, Italy, and won the gold medal in the light-heavyweight division. This led to a contract with a twelve member group of millionaires called the Louisville Sponsors Group, the most lucrative contract negotiated by a professional in the history of boxing. He worked his way through a string of professional victories, employing a style that combined speed with devastating punching power, described by one of his handlers as the ability to "float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee."

Ali's flamboyant style of boasting and rhyming and out-spoken self-promotion garnered considerable media attention as he moved toward a chance to contend for the world heavyweight boxing championship. When he began to write poems predicting the outcome of his many bouts he became known by the another name: "The Louisville Lip." Both the attention and his skill as a fighter paid off, and on February 15, 1964, at Miami, Florida, when he was only 22 years old, he fought and defeated Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship of the world.

"Beloved of Allah"

Meanwhile Ali, inspired by human rights activist Malcolm X, embraced the Black Muslim faith and announced that he had changed his name to Cassius X. This was at a time when the struggle for civil rights was at a peak and the Muslims had emerged as a controversial but major force in the African American community. Later he was given the name Muhammad Ali, meaning "beloved of Allah," by the Muslim patriarch Elijah Muhammad.

In his first title defense, held at Lewiston, Maine, on May 25, 1965, he defeated the now challenger Sonny Liston with a first round knockout that many called a phantom punch because it was so fast and powerful that few in attendance saw it. Ali successfully defended his title eight more times.

On April 28, 1967, Ali was drafted into military service during the Vietnam War. As a Muslim and a conscientious objector he refused to serve, claiming an exemption as a minister of the Black Muslim religion. The press turned against him, calling him "unpatriotic, loudmouthed, bombastic." Although he had not been charged or convicted for violating the Selective Service Act, the New York State Athletic Commission and World Boxing Association suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his heavyweight title in May of 1967. Ali's comment to Sports Illustrated at the time was, "I'm giving up my title, my wealth, may be my future. Many great men have been tested for their religious beliefs. If I pass this test, I'll come out stronger than ever." Eventually Ali was sentenced to five years in prison, released on appeal, and his conviction overturned three years later by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Vindication and Victory

The vindicated Ali returned to the ring in a victorious bout with Jerry Quary in Atlanta in 1971. Four months later he was defeated by Joe Frazier in Manila, who had replaced him as heavyweight champion when the title had been vacated. He regained the championship for the first time when he defeated George Forman (who had beaten Frazier for the title) in a bout held in Zaire in 1974. Ali fought Frazier again in the same year, and in 1975 won both matches and secured his title as the world heavyweight champion. In that year, to welcome Ali back, Sports Illustrated magazine named him their "Sportsman of the Year."

Ali began to employ a new style of boxing, one that he called his "rope-a-dope." He would let his opponents wear themselves down while he rested, often against the ropes; then he would lash out in the later rounds. During his ensuing reign Ali successfully defended his title ten more times. Ali held the championship until he was defeated by Leon Spinks on February 16, 1978, in a bout held in Las Vegas, Nevada. Seven months later, on September 15, 1978, Ali regained the heavyweight title by defeating Spinks in a bout held at New Orleans. Ali thus became the first boxer in history to win the heavyweight championship three times. At the end of his boxing career he was slowed by a neurological condition related to Parkinson's disease. His last fight, the 61st, took place in 1981.

Role as Statesman

As his career wound to a close, Ali became increasingly involved in social causes, diplomacy and politics. He has campaigned for Jimmy Carter and other Democratic political candidates and taken part in the promotion of a variety of political causes addressing poverty and children. He even played the role of diplomat, attempting to secure the release of four kidnapped Americans in Lebanon in 1985. As a result, his image changed from gadfly to highly respected statesman.

At the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, the world and his country honored Ali by choosing him to light the Olympic torch during the opening ceremonies.

Further Reading

There are numerous books about Muhammad Ali. Some of the best include Thomas Conklin, Muhammad Ali: The Fight for Respect (1992), Thomas Hauser's three books, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times (1992), Muhammad Ali in Perspective (1996), and Muhammad Ali: Memories, with photographer Neil Leifer. Other supplementary texts include Barry Denenberg, The Story of Muhammad Ali: Heavyweight Champion of the World (Famous Lives) (1996), The People's Champ (Sport and Society), edited by Elliott J. Gorn (1995), Arlene Schulman, Muhammad Ali: Champion (Newsmakers) (1996), Jack Rummel, Muhammad Ali (Black Americans ofAchievement) (1989), William R. Sanford, Carl R. Green, Muhammad Ali (Sports Immortals) (1993), John Stravinsky, Muhammad Ali: Biography (Biographies from A&E) (1997). Outstanding accounts of particular events in Ali's life and career are Norman Mailer's book about the return bout with Forman in Zaire, The Fight (1997), and Suzanne Freedman, Clay v. United States: Muhammad Ali Objects to War (1997). Recent articles on Ali have appeared in The Boston Globe (Oct. 1, 1984, Jan. 17, 1992), Newsweek (June 22, 1987), New York Daily News (Feb. 2, 1989), New York Post (July 14, 1987), New York Times Magazine (July 17, 1988), Philadelphia Inquirer (Aug. 12, 1990), Spin (Oct. 1991), USA Today (Feb. 25, 1994), and Washington Post (June 9, 1991). □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Muhammad Ali." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Muhammad Ali." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/muhammad-ali

"Muhammad Ali." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/muhammad-ali

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Ali, Muhammad (USA)

Ali, Muhammad (USA) 1942-

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest heavyweight boxing champions. He also stands as a powerful symbol of social and cultural change in the United States during the second half of the twentieth century.

Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 17, 1942. He began boxing at an early age and had a distinguished amateur career that culminated in winning a gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics. He then turned professional, and on February 25, 1964, he defeated Sonny Liston (1932?-1970) to become heavyweight champion at the age of twenty-two.

Already at this point in his career Ali demonstrated the outspoken demeanor that reflected the changing racial climate of the times. The civil rights movement that had begun in the United States in the years following World War II (1939-1945) was coming to a climax, with widespread activism, the charismatic leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), and the passage of landmark federal legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The more violently confrontational Black Power movement was about to begin. The history of the heavyweight championship and Alis role in it serves to reflect these elements of change. Following a controversial black champion, Jack Johnson (1878-1946), in the early years of the century, no African American was allowed to fight for the heavyweight championship until the arrival of Joe Louis (1914-1981) in the 1930s. Louis, who held the title from 1937 to 1949, and other black champions who followed, most notably Floyd Patterson (1935-2006) during the late 1950s and early 1960s, were submissive and noncontroversial. The young Cassius Clay, however, was brash and outspoken. Shortly after becoming heavyweight champion, the aura of controversy surrounding him grew when he announced that he had become a member of the Nation of Islam and was officially changing his name to Muhammad Ali. In 1966, as U.S. military involvement in Vietnam became an increasingly divisive national issue, Ali announced that he was seeking exemption from military service as a conscientious objector. As a result of this, and his subsequent refusal of induction when his draft board failed to grant the exemption, he was formally stripped of his boxing title early the following year.

Ali was kept out of the sport for next three years. In 1970, however, he was again able to obtain a boxing license, and in 1971 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction for refusing induction. Returning to the ring at the age of twenty-eight, he went on to fight some of his most memorable bouts, including his stunning victory over George Foreman in Zaire in October 1974 in which he regained the heavyweight title. He continued to fight through the rest of the decade, losing and regaining the title a third time in 1978. He fought his last fight and left the ring for good in 1981.

In the latter part of his fighting career, Ali began to display the effects of his many years in boxing. In the early 1980s he was diagnosed with pugilistic Parkinsons syndrome. Despite deteriorating health following his retirement, he continued to make public appearances and to serve as a spokesperson for anti-imperialist and anticolonial movements throughout the world. During this period also, his reputation in the United States gradually underwent a transformation, from a figure of controversy to a national icon. In 1980 he was sent to Africa by President Jimmy Carter in an unsuccessful effort to gain African support for the U.S. boycott of the Moscow Olympics. A diplomatic effort in Iraq in 1990 secured the release of several of the U.S. hostages being held by Saddam Hussein (1937-2006) in the period immediately preceding the 1991 Gulf War. As the 1990s progressed, Alis rise to iconic status continued. In 1996, with an estimated three billion people around the world watching on television, he lit the Olympic flame to open the Atlanta Summer Olympics, and nine years later, in 2005, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a ceremony in the White House.

It is extremely difficult to separate the real from the mythic Ali. His stature, clearly, extends far beyond his skill in the boxing ring, and is attributable to the natural charisma and sincerity of the man, to the work of the many journalists and publicists who wrote about him, and finally to the times in which he lived. Never a profound or original thinker, Alis activities and pronouncements on various issueshis support, for example, of Republican presidential candidates Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) and George H. W. Bush in the 1980soften appeared inconsistent and contradictory. In the end, however, it is in the transition from a figure of controversy to a national icon, and the manner in which it serves to symbolize the social and cultural change occurring in the United States during the second half of the twentieth century, that his greatest significance lies.

SEE ALSO Black Power; Bush, George H. W.; Colonialism; Imperialism; Malcolm X; Nation of Islam; Neocolonialism; Olympic Games; Reagan, Ronald; Sports; Sports Industry; Vietnam War

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hauser, Thomas. 1991. Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Marqusee, Mike. 2005. Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties. 2nd ed. London: Verso.

Remnick, David. 1998. King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero. New York: Random House.

Scott Wright

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ali, Muhammad (USA)." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ali, Muhammad (USA)." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/ali-muhammad-usa

"Ali, Muhammad (USA)." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/ali-muhammad-usa

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Ali, Muhammad (Memet)

Ali, Muhammad (Memet) 1769-1849

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The history of modern Egypt opens in 1798 with Napoleon Bonapartes (1769-1821) invasion of the Ottoman province, destroying the army of the Mamluk rulers at the Battle of the Pyramids. With the Mamluks and the Ottomans in disarray, the French troops also withdrew after the defeat of the French fleet at Abu Qir, leaving a political vacuum. Muhammad Ali (or Mehmet Ali), born in the Macedonian town of Kavalla in the Ottoman Empire, was a young officer serving with the Albanian contingent against the French. He successfully filled this vacuum by creating a power base in the villages, and by joining forces with local clerics and merchants in Cairo. He removed three successive governors sent from Istanbul. Appointed wali or Ottoman viceroy of Egypt in 1805, Muhammad Ali used brutal methods to establish his control over Egypt, including breaking the power of the Mamluks by massacring their leaders in 1811. Regarded as the founder of modern Egypt, he created a dynasty that ruled Egypt until 1952.

Recognizing that modern political power rests on a modern, disciplined army, Muhammad Ali conscripted peasants from Upper Egypt to train them in the Napoleonic army system. He undertook a number of military campaigns, but his military and dynastic ambitions were thwarted by British, French, or Russian intervention. These powers had their own designs on the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, and their interests were not compatible with the strategic objectives of Muhammad Ali. Between 1820 and 1822, he conquered the Sudan in search of gold and slaves, founding the city of Khartoum in 1823. Some thirty thousand Sudanese slaves had been trained, and these nizami troops, led by Muhammad Alis son Ibrahim (1789-1848), were sent against the Greeks in 1827 in the Greek war of independence. Although his troops were relatively effective, the Ottoman navy was destroyed at the Battle of Navarino in 1827.

To fund his military reforms, Muhammad Ali established long-staple cotton as a cash crop and modernized Egyptian agriculture for cotton production to supply the British textile industry. To secure his rule and to support cotton production, he confiscated the lands of the ruling class, made large land grants to his own family, and reclaimed uncultivated land, thereby creating a new landed class to support his political rule.

His modernization program also included the reform of educational institutions, the creation of a teaching hospital, the building of roads and canals, the construction of state factories, and the development of a shipbuilding foundry at Alexandria. These industrial developments provided the military platform that led Muhammad Ali to invade Greater Syria in 1831 and again in 1839. Alarmed by his success, the British intervened, blocked the Nile Delta and defeated him at Beirut. In the Treaty of London in 1841, he surrendered Crete and Hijaz and abandoned his military ambitions; in return, he and his descendants were given hereditary rule over Egypt. He died in 1849, being buried in the Muhammad Ali Mosque in the Citadel of Cairo, the mosque that he had commissioned.

Muhammad Ali was the last of the military adventurers who periodically seized power in the Ottoman provinces, giving their military domination a mask of legitimacy by creating a dynasty. He was fortunate to rule in a period of Ottoman decline, taking advantage of French military officers to modernize his army.

SEE ALSO Ottoman Empire

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fahmy, Khaled. 1997. All the Pashas Men: Mehmed Ali, His Army, and the Making of Modern Egypt. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Vatikiotis, P. J. 1991. The History of Modern Egypt: From Muhammad Ali to Mubarak. 4th ed. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.

Bryan S. Turner

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ali, Muhammad (Memet)." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ali, Muhammad (Memet)." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/ali-muhammad-memet

"Ali, Muhammad (Memet)." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/ali-muhammad-memet

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Muhammad Ali (pasha of Egypt)

Muhammad Ali, 1769?–1849, pasha of Egypt after 1805. He was a common soldier who rose to leadership by his military skill and political acumen. In 1799 he commanded a Turkish army in an unsuccessful attempt to drive Napoleon from Egypt. As pasha he was virtually independent of his nominal overlord, the Ottoman sultan. He modernized his armed forces and administration, created schools, and began many public works, particularly irrigation projects. The cost of these reforms bore heavily on the peasants and brought them few benefits. In 1811 he exterminated the leaders of the Mamluks, who had ruled Egypt almost uninterruptedly since 1250. With his son, Ibrahim Pasha, Muhammad Ali conducted successful campaigns in Arabia against the Wahhabis. In 1820 he sent armies to conquer Sudan. He scored great successes fighting for the Ottoman sultan in Greece until the British, French, and Russians combined to defeat his fleet at Navarino in 1827. The sultan, Mahmud II, to win his intervention in the Greek revolt, had promised to make him governor of Syria. When the sultan refused to hand over the province, Muhammad Ali invaded Syria with great success. In 1839 he attacked his overlord in Asia Minor, but was forced to desist when he lost the support of France and was threatened by united European opposition. In a compromise arrangement the Ottoman sultan made the governorship of Egypt hereditary in Muhammad Ali's line. He retired from office in 1848. Muhammad Ali is credited for his many domestic reforms, which hastened the foundations for an independent Egypt.

See H. H. Dodwell, The Founder of Modern Egypt (1931, repr. 1977); A. Marsot, Egypt in the Reign of Muhammad Ali (1984).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Muhammad Ali (pasha of Egypt)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Muhammad Ali (pasha of Egypt)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/muhammad-ali-pasha-egypt

"Muhammad Ali (pasha of Egypt)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/muhammad-ali-pasha-egypt

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Ali, Muhammad

Muhammad Ali (məhăm´əd älē´), 1942–, American boxer, b. Louisville, Ky. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, he was a 1960 Olympic gold medalist. Shortly after upsetting Sonny Liston in 1964 to become world heavyweight champion, he formalized his association with the Nation of Islam (see Black Muslims) and adopted the Muslim name Muhammad Ali.

Ali's flamboyant boxing style and outspoken stances on social issues made him a controversial figure during the turbulent 1960s and early 1970s. After beating Liston, he defended his title nine times, brashly proclaiming himself the "greatest of all time." In 1967 he refused induction into the armed services and became a symbol of resistance to the Vietnam War. The boxing establishment stripped Ali of his title and prevented him from fighting until the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971 upheld his draft appeal on religious grounds. Before retiring in 1981 Ali compiled a 56–5 record and became the only man to ever win the heavyweight crown three times. His fights with Joe Frazier and George Foreman were among boxing's biggest events.

In retirement, Ali has remained one of the most recognized world figures. The 1984 revelation that he suffered from Parkinson's disease renewed debate over the negative effects of boxing. His appearance at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, to light the Olympic flame, moved an international audience.

See T. Hauser, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times (1991); D. Remnick, King of the World (1998).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ali, Muhammad." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ali, Muhammad." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ali-muhammad

"Ali, Muhammad." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ali-muhammad

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Muhammad Ali (shah of Persia)

Muhammad Ali, 1872–1925, shah of Persia (1906–9), son of Muzaffar ad-Din Shah, of the Qajar dynasty. Muhammad Ali, who was an opponent of constitutional government, began to rule at a critical period just after the constitution of 1906 had been granted. His struggle with the nationalists led to the bombing of the newly established parliament. He called in the aid of the Russians, who organized a Cossack brigade for him. His attempt to overthrow the constitutional government brought on two short civil wars (1908–9). Muhammad Ali was finally forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Ahmad Mirza. Later he attempted with Russian help to regain his throne, but he failed and afterward lived in exile in Russia.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Muhammad Ali (shah of Persia)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Muhammad Ali (shah of Persia)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/muhammad-ali-shah-persia

"Muhammad Ali (shah of Persia)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/muhammad-ali-shah-persia

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Ali, Muhammad

Ali, Muhammad (1942– ) US boxer, b. Cassius Marcellus Clay. He defeated Sonny Liston to gain the world heavyweight championship in 1964. He converted to Islam and joined the Black Muslims. Ali successfully defended the title nine times. In 1967 he refused to fight in the Vietnam War and the World Boxing Association (WBA) took away his title. In 1971 the US Supreme Court upheld Ali's appeal against the ban, but he was defeated in the ring by Joe Frazier. He regained the title from George Foreman in the 1974 ‘rumble in the jungle’ fight. In 1978 Ali was defeated by Leon Spinks, but won the rematch, becoming the first heavyweight to win the title three times.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ali, Muhammad." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ali, Muhammad." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ali-muhammad

"Ali, Muhammad." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ali-muhammad

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali (1769–1849) Albanian soldier who founded an Egyptian dynasty. In 1798, he took part in an Ottoman expeditionary force to Egypt to drive out the French. He was unsuccessful, but (after the departure of the French) quickly rose to power. In 1805, he was proclaimed viceroy to the Ottoman sultan. In 1811 he defeated the Mamluks, who had ruled Egypt since the 13th century. Muhammad put down a rebellion in Greece in 1821, but his fleet was later destroyed by the European powers at the Battle of Navarino (1827). He challenged the sultan and began a conquest of Syria in 1831, but was compelled to withdraw by European powers.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Muhammad Ali." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Muhammad Ali." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/muhammad-ali

"Muhammad Ali." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/muhammad-ali

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali See Ali

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Muhammad Ali." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Muhammad Ali." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/muhammad-ali-0

"Muhammad Ali." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/muhammad-ali-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Ali, Muhammad

Ali, Muhammad

January 17, 1942


Boxer Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., in Louisville, Kentucky. He began boxing at the age of twelve under the tutelage of Joe Martin, a Louisville policeman. Having little interest in school and little affinity for intellectual endeavors, young Clay devoted himself wholeheartedly to boxing. He showed great promise early on and soon developed into one of the most impressive amateurs in the country. He became the National Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) champion in 1959 and 1960 and also won a gold medal in the light-heavyweight division at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. As a result of his boyish good looks and his outgoing personalityhis poetry recitations, his good-natured bragging, and his undeniable abilitiesClay because famous after the Olympics. Shortly after returning from Rome, he turned professional and was managed by a consortium of white Louisville businessmen. Carefully nurtured by veteran trainer Angelo Dundee, he accumulated a string of victories against relatively mediocre opponents and achieved a national following with his constant patter, his poetry, and his boyish antics.

At six feet three inches and a fighting weight of around two hundred pounds, he astonished sportswriters with his blazing hand and foot speed, his unorthodox style of keeping his hands low, and his ability to avoid punches by moving his head back. No heavyweight in history possessed Clay's grace or speed.

On February 25, 1964, Clay fought as the underdog for the heavyweight title against Sonny Liston. Liston, an ex-convict, was thought by many to be virtually invincible because of his devastating one-round victories against former champion Floyd Patterson. An air of both the theater of the absurd and of ominousness surrounded the bout in Miami. Publicly, Clay taunted and comically berated Liston. He called him "the Bear," harassed him at his home, and almost turned the weigh-in ceremony into a shambles as he seemingly tried to attack Liston and appeared on the verge of being utterly out of control. Privately, however, Clay was seen with Malcolm X and members of the Nation of Islam (NOI). Rumors started that he had joined the militant, mysterious sect. Soon after, it was discovered that he had been secretly visiting NOI mosques for nearly three years and that he had indeed become a friend of Malcolm X, who sat ringside at the Liston fight.

Clay beat Liston fairly easily in seven rounds, shocking the world by becoming heavyweight champion. Immediately after the fight, he announced that he was a member of the NOI and that his name was no longer Cassius Clay but Muhammad Ali. The response from the white press, white America, and the boxing establishment generally was swift and intensely hostile. The NOI was seen, largely through the rhetoric of Malcolm X, its most stylish spokesman, as an antiwhite hate group. (When Malcolm X broke with the NOI shortly after the Liston fight, Ali remained loyal to Elijah Muhammad and ended his friendship with Malcolm X.) Following his public conversion to Islam, Ali was publicly pilloried. Most publications and sports journalists refused to call him by his new name. Former champion Floyd Patterson nearly went on a personal and national crusade against the NOI in his fight against Ali on November 22, 1965, but Patterson later became one of the few fighters to defend Ali publicly during his years of exile. Indeed, not since the reign of Jack Johnson was the white public and a segment of the black population so enraged by the opinions and life of a black athlete.

After winning his rematch with Liston in Lewiston, Maine, on May 25, 1965, in a bizarre fight that ended with Liston apparently being knocked out in the first round, Ali spent most of the next year fighting abroad, primarily because of his unpopularity in the United States. Among his most important matches during this period were a fifteen-round decision over George Chuvalo in Toronto, a sixth-round knockout of Henry Cooper in London, and a fifteen-round decision over Ernest Terrell in Houston. While Ali was abroad, American officials changed his draft status from 1-Y (unfit for army services because of his low score on army intelligence tests) to 1-A (qualified for induction). Many saw this change as a direct response to the negative public opinion concerning Ali's political views and the mounting war in Vietnam. Ali refused to serve in the army on the grounds that it was a violation of his religious beliefs. (Elijah Muhammad, leader of the NOI, had served time in prison during World War II for refusing to serve in the armed services.) In 1967 Ali was convicted in federal court of violation of the Selective Service Act, sentenced to five years in prison, and immediately stripped of both his boxing title and his boxing license. For the next three and one-half years, Ali, free on bond while appealing his case (which he eventually won on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court), was prohibited from boxing. Still, he had inspired black athletes to become more militant and more politically committed. Medal-winning track stars John Carlos and Tommie Smith gave a clenched-fist salute during the playing of the National Anthem at the Olympic Games in Mexico City in 1968, and Harry Edwards became one of the more outspoken leaders of a new cadre of young black athletes who saw Ali as a hero.

By 1970, with public opinion decidedly against the Vietnam War and a growing black influence in several southern state governments, Ali was given a license to fight in Georgia. He returned to the ring on October 26 to knock out Jerry Quarry in the third round. Although he was still a brilliant fighter, the nearly four-year layoff had diminished some of Ali's abilities. He took far more punishment in the ring during the years of his return than he had taken before. This was to have dire consequences for him as he grew older.

In the early 1970s Ali fought several of his most memorable matches. On March 8, 1971, he faced the undefeated Philadelphian Joe Frazier in New York City. Frazier had become champion during Ali's exile. The fifteen-round fight, which Frazier won in a close decision, was so fierce that both boxers were hospitalized after it. Many have speculated that this fight initiated Ali's neurological deterioration. In July of that year Ali won the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) heavyweight title by knocking out Jimmy Ellis in twelve rounds. His next major boxing challenge came in March 1973, when Ken Norton captured the NABF title from Ali in a twelve-round decision. Ali regained the title six months later with a twelve-round decision over Norton. In January of the following year, Ali and Frazier staged their first rematch. This nontitle bout at Madison Square Garden ended with Ali victorious after twelve hard-fought rounds. Ali finally regained the world heavyweight title in Kinshasa, Zaire, on October 30, 1974, when he knocked out a seemingly indestructible George Foreman in eight rounds. To counter Foreman's awesome punching power, Ali used what he called his "rope-adope" strategy, by which he leaned back against the ropes and covered his head, allowing Foreman to punch himself out. The next year, Ali and Frazier faced off one last time in what Ali dubbed "the Thrilla in Manila." Both boxers received tremendous punishment during this bludgeoning ordeal. Ali prevailed, however, when Frazier's trainer refused to let the boxer come out for the fifteenth round.

During the 1970s Ali was lionized. No longer seen as a race demon, he virtually became a national icon. He appeared in moviesincluding The Greatest (1977), based on his autobiography of the same name (1975). Like Jackie Robinson and Joe Louis before him, Ali played himself in the film, and he also appeared in television programs and in commercials. He was one of the most photographed and interviewed men in the world. Indeed, Ali even beat Superman in the ring in a special issue of the comic devoted to him. Part of Ali's newfound popularity was a result of a shift in attitude by the white public and white sportswriters, but part of it was also a reflection of Ali's tempered approach to politics. Ali became a great deal less doctrinaire in the political aspects of his Islamic beliefs and he eventually embraced Wallace D. Muhammad's more ecumenical form of Islam when the NOI factionalized after the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975. Finally, as befitting a major celebrity, Ali had one of the largest entourages of any sports personality in history, resembling that of a head of state.

On February 15, 1978, Ali again lost the title. His opponent this time was Leon Spinks, an ex-Marine and native of a north St. Louis housing project. Spinks had fought in only eight professional bouts before he met Ali. Ali, however, became the first heavyweight in history to regain the title for a third time when he defeated Spinks on September 15 of the same year.

In 1979 Ali was aged and weary; his legs were shot, his reflexes had slowed, and his appetite for competition was waning as a result of the good life that he was enjoying. He retired from the ring at that time, only to do what so many other great champions have so unwisely done, namely, return to battle. His return to the ring included a savage ten-round beating on October 2, 1980, at the hands of Larry Holmes, a former sparring partner who had become champion after Ali's retirement. His next fight was a ten-round decision lost to Trevor Berbick on December 11 of the following year. After the Berbick fight, Ali retired for good. His professional record stands at fiftysix wins, thirty-seven by knockout, and five losses. He was elected to the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1987.

Muhammad Ali

"Keep asking me, no matter how long On the war in Viet Nam, I sing this song I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong."

During Ali's later years, his speech became noticeably more slurred, and after his retirement he became more aged: moving slowly, speaking with such a thick tongue that he was almost incomprehensible, and suffering from attacks of palsy. There is some question as to whether he has Parkinson's disease or a Parkinson's-like deterioration of the neurological system. Many believe that the deterioration of his neurological system is directly connected to the punishment he took in the ring. By the early 1990s, although his mind was still sound, Ali gave the appearance of being a good deal older and more infirm than he actually was. He found it difficult to write or talk, and he often walked slowly. Despite this, he lived a full life, traveled constantly, and seemed to be at peace with himself. During the late 1990s he became the object of renewed public interest. In 1996, in tribute to his travels for peace, Ali was chosen to light the Olympic torch in Atlanta. The same year, he was featured in When We Were Kings, a documentary movie about his 1974 defeat of George Foreman in Kinshasa.

Ali's personal life was turbulent. He was married four times and had several children as well as numerous affairs, especially during his heyday as a fighter. His oldest daughter, Maryum, is a rap artist, following in her father's footsteps as a poetAli made a poetry recording for Columbia Records in 1963 called The Greatest. Maryum recorded a popular rap dedicated to her father.

In 2001 Ali, a critically acclaimed movie starring Will Smith, was made about his life. Ali has received countless honors and in 2003 participated in the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics World Summer games.

It would be difficult to overestimate Ali's impact on boxing and on the United States as both a cultural and political figure. He became one of the most recognized men in the world, an enduring, if not always appropriate, stylistic influence on young boxers, and a man who showed the world that it was possible for a black to speak his mind publicly and live to tell the tale.

See also Boxing; Foreman, George; Frazier, Joe; Louis, Joe; Malcolm X; Muhammad, Elijah; Nation of Islam; Patterson, Floyd; Robinson, Jackie

Bibliography

Ali, Muhammad, with Hana Ali. The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004.

Dennis, Felix. Muhammad Ali: The Glory Years. New York: Miramax, 2003.

Hauser, Thomas. Muhammad Ali: His Life and Time. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991.

Mailer, Norman. The Fight. New York: Little, Brown, 1975.

McCallum, John D. The World Heavyweight Boxing Championship: A History. Radnor, Pa.: Chilton, 1974.

Olsen, Jack. Black Is Best: The Riddle of Cassius Clay. New York: Putnam, 1967.

Plimpton, George. Shadow Box. New York: Putnam, 1977.

Roberts, Randy. Papa Jack: Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes. New York: Free Press, 1983.

Sheen, Wilfred. Muhammad Ali. New York: Crowell, 1975.

Torres, Jose. Sting Like a Bee: The Muhammad Ali Story. New York: Abelard-Schuman, 1971.

gerald l. early (1996)
Updated by publisher 2005

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ali, Muhammad." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ali, Muhammad." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ali-muhammad

"Ali, Muhammad." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ali-muhammad

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Ali, Muhammad

ALI, Muhammad

(b. 17 January 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky), three-time heavyweight boxing champion, and show-man extraordinaire; one of the finest and most controversial athletes of all time.

Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. His father, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr., a sign painter, and his mother, Odessa Lee Grady, had one other son, Rudolph Valentino Clay (later known as Rahaman Ali; he also had a career as a boxer).

Clay took up boxing at the age of twelve under the tutelage of a white Louisville police officer, Joe Martin. Clay, who had little interest in academic or intellectual pursuits—in 1960 he barely graduated from Central High School in Louisville—devoted himself with almost monk-like austerity to learning the art and science of boxing. He became one of the country's most impressive amateurs, winning National Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) championships in 1959 and 1960. He won a gold medal as a light-heavyweight in the 1960 Rome Olympics, where he made a name for himself by reciting poetry, bragging about his abilities, and reassuring the foreign press that the American race problem was being properly handled. While Clay's demeanor enraged fight traditionalists as much as his unorthodox boxing style (he held his hands low, jabbed in retreat, and in general boxed like a heavyweight version of his idol, the middleweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson), many found him refreshing, winning, and utterly charming in a boyish way. Like Motown Records, established in 1959, and students conducting sit-in protests at African-American colleges, Clay represented a new African-American youth culture; these were young men and women who were unwilling to do things as their parents and grandparents had.

Upon his return from Rome to the United States, and under the management of a consortium of white Louisville businessmen, Clay turned professional. Guided by veteran trainer Angelo Dundee, who did little to change his style, Clay accumulated a string of victories largely against mediocre opposition. Tall, rangy, with astonishing hand and foot speed, Clay's constant patter and poetry, predictions of the outcome of his fights, and clowning garnered much attention but also produced a cadre of sports fans who found him insufferable. Most people came to the fights hoping to see him get beaten, although younger fans tended to like him. He also drew many new fans to boxing, purely on the basis of the beauty of his fighting style and the brashness of his personality. On the whole, Clay's influence was good for the sport, which had been in the doldrums for most of the 1950s. It had been diminished by revelations of fixed fights, riddled by the presence of gangsters, investigated by a Senate subcommittee, and fronted by two champions—Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston—who were skilled boxers but moody and unappealing men. Clay brought a great deal of showmanship and youth appeal to boxing.

In February 1964 Clay won the heavyweight title in Miami by beating the former convict Sonny Liston in an oddly inconclusive fight, when the champion failed to come out for the seventh round. Clay was a seven-to-one underdog; some even thought he would not show up to fight the mighty Liston, who had effortlessly knocked out Floyd Patterson in one round in 1962 and repeated the feat in 1963. Clay stunned the world when he beat Liston, convincing many, despite the strangeness of the fight, of his courage and his enormous skills.

Clay evoked strong feelings but was not perceived as a villain by a large number of whites until after the Liston fight, when he announced his membership in the Nation of Islam, a small but influential religious sect in the African-American community that practiced self-empowerment, avoided politics, and believed that white people were devils and African-American people a superior race. The group denounced racial integration as a political and social goal of the leaders of the civil rights movement. The most impressive spokesperson for the Nation of Islam was the fiery, highly articulate, and logical Malcolm X, who had been in Clay's training camp before the Liston fight. The Nation of Islam was seen by the white press and by some African Americans as a hate group, an extremist group, and Clay was roundly denounced for becoming a member. He further outraged the white American public by taking the name Cassius X, reflecting the group's belief that African-American surnames derive from those of the slaves' white masters. Nearly all the publications in the United States refused to call Clay by his new name. A short time later, the group's leader, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, gave him the name Muhammad Ali. Malcolm X had left the Nation of Islam shortly after the Liston fight to form his own group, and he and others suggested that Elijah Muhammad wished to prevent Clay from leaving as well. To be sure, the Nation of Islam officially did not lionize Clay until after he won the Liston fight of 1964; few in the higher circles of the sect thought that he would win.

A few months later Clay adopted the Muslim name Muhammad Ali and toured Ghana, Nigeria, and the United Arab Republic (UAR; the brief political union of Egypt and Syria). Everywhere he was met by huge numbers of people, many of whom held signs proclaiming him King of the World. Even newspapers of these countries, which gave Ali extraordinary coverage, referred to him by this title, as if he were a form of royalty, an Islamic prince, or a head of state. Ali enjoyed audiences with heads of state such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Gamal Abdel Nasser of the UAR, an honor unheard of for a foreign athlete, especially a boxer, with utterly no native connection to the country.

In a sense, the press and the crowds were right. Ali was the king of a certain portion of the world, a large segment of what was referred to as the colored or Bandung world, so called after the site of the famous 1954 Afro-Asian Unity conference. Certainly, no heavyweight champion before Ali had ever had such a following in the Third World. No champion boxer had ever toured these countries before, particularly no American.

But Ali was different, and his rise reflected changing racial politics in the ideologically charged cold war universe, where African and Asian independence and anti-colonial movements found common ground with the American civil rights movement and growing African-American political militancy. Unexpectedly, this young African American from the South, who combined the antics of Dizzy Dean, the Pan-Africanist rhetoric of Malcolm X, the narrow-minded fervor of a cult zealot, the good looks of a Hollywood star, the heart and abilities of a superbly gifted athlete, and the moral sensibilities of Jack Armstrong, the fictional "all-American boy" of radio, came to dominate American sports and personalize dissident American politics.

Malcolm X was assassinated in February 1965, and tension was high between his followers and the Nation of Islam, which allegedly was responsible for the murder. In Lewiston, Maine, on 25 May 1965, Ali knocked out Liston in one round, apparently with a single punch that many, to this day, have been unable to discern. Because of his unpopularity in the United States, Ali defended his title abroad in several fights, including wins over Canadian George Chuvalo, Englishman Henry Cooper, and German Karl Mildenberger.

White public disapproval of Ali intensified when he spoke against the military draft. He had been initially classified as 1-Y, which meant that he was unfit to serve because of his low score on the army intelligence tests. After the Liston fight of 1964 he was retested, failing again, much to his embarrassment. ("I always said I was the greatest. I never said I was the smartest.") But in 1966, as a result of the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the escalation of the Vietnam War (which resulted in a recalibration of the intelligence tests) Ali was reclassified 1-A (fit to serve). In a panic, when told this by reporters, he said that he did not want to go Vietnam and "had no quarrel with those Viet Cong," of whom he never heard until a reporter mentioned them. The public took this as a far more self-consciously political statement than it truly was. Ali fought the draft, but on religious, not political or racial, grounds. (Elijah Muhammad, whom Ali saw as a father figure, had gone to prison for draft dodging and sedition in October 1942, as did his son Wallace D. Muhammad in 1961.)

In 1967 Ali was convicted in federal court of violation of the Selective Service Act and sentenced to five years in prison. He was also stripped of his titles, denied a license to fight in the United States, and denied a passport to fight abroad. He did not fight again until October 1970, when public opinion had turned against the war and public respect for Ali had grown in light of the sincerity, tenacity, and earnestness with which he held his beliefs. Ali eventually won his case on 28 June 1971, when the Supreme Court unanimously reversed Ali's conviction on a technicality.

Although Ali's skills were somewhat diminished by his three-and-a-half-year layoff, he returned to the ring a dominating presence. In the 1970s he proved himself against several highly skilled opponents, including the relentless Joe Frazier, to whom Ali, in the eyes of the public, lost his title in March 1971 on a fifteen-round decision; the awkward Ken Norton, whom he never completely mastered; and the powerful George Foreman, from whom he regained the title in dramatic fashion in Kinshasa, Zaire, in 1974 at the age of thirty-two, when everyone thought he was washed up. In 1964 Ali had promised many Ghanaians and Nigerians that he would build a house in Africa and live there, but he never did so; he never liked Africa very much. He left Zaire immediately after his fight with Foreman, thoroughly wearied by the place.

In the 1970s Ali was worshipped by a huge international audience. He was arguably the most famous man on the planet. He appeared in commercials, in a film about his life (based on an autobiography edited by Toni Morrison), even in a comic book where he beat up Superman. He had a huge entourage and, to support it, continued to fight although he was past his prime. He had difficult, draining fights against Frazier, Norton, Jimmy Young, and Earnie Shavers. He defeated Frazier on 28 January 1974, in ten rounds, and 1 October 1975 in Manila, the Philippines, in thirteen rounds. Ali went on to defeat Norton in their third and final meeting on 28 September 1976, in a close fifteen-round decision.

Ali became almost unbearably egotistical during this period. He had always insulted opponents, sometimes playfully, as when he called Liston "the Bear," and sometimes more viciously, as when he called Patterson a girl, and a rabbit. (Patterson, to some degree, had this coming. He had embarked on a personal crusade to bring the heavyweight title "back to America" when Ali announced his membership in the Nation of Islam. Later in the 1960s, however, Patterson was the only boxer to publicly defend Ali.) In the 1970s, in an attempt to add more political drama and tension to his fights, Ali's insults became shriller, sometimes tasteless.

In the late 1960s and the 1970s certain Nation of Islam mosques became associated with crime and drugs in the African-American community, and Ali, for a time, was associated with a charismatic underworld figure named Major Coxson, who was mysteriously executed along with his entire family. Also, the blood feud between the Nation of Islam and other sects of African American Muslims continued unabated into the 1970s.

On 15 February 1978 a fat, lethargic Ali lost his title to Leon Spinks, an ex-Marine and native of the notorious Pruitt-Igoe housing project in North St. Louis, Missouri, who had had only eight previous professional fights. Ali, however, got himself in shape and won the rematch on 15 September convincingly, becoming the first heavyweight to win the title three times.

In 1979, with his reflexes gone, his taste for competition dulled, and his body battered from numerous ring wars, Ali retired. Unfortunately, like many others, he did not stay retired. Unwisely, he returned to the ring on 2 October 1980 and fought his former sparring partner, and current heavyweight champion, Larry Holmes. Ali was savagely and shockingly beaten over ten rounds. He fought yet again on 11 December 1981 against journeyman heavyweight Trevor Berbick. Again, Ali lost in a ten-round decision. This was Ali's last fight. His final ring record was fifty-six wins (thirty-seven knockouts) and five losses. He was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1987.

Ali's personal life was perennially disordered. He married Sonji Roi on 14 August 1964; they divorced in 1966 and had no children. His second marriage to Belinda Boyd on 17 August 1967 lasted until 1976; they had four children. The following year, on 19 June 1977 he married Veronica Porche; they divorced in 1986 after having had two children, one of whom, a daughter Laila, became a boxer. Later that year, on 19 November, he married Lonnie Williams and they adopted a son. Altogether, Ali had nine children: seven among his four marriages and two by mistresses.

As early as the 1970s, as Ali's skills deteriorated and he absorbed more and more punishment in the ring, many noticed that his speech was becoming progressively more slurred. After his retirement, this slurring became worse, and his body movements became slower. He also began to suffer attacks of palsy. Most doctors diagnosed Ali's condition not as Parkinson's disease but as Parkinson's syndrome, largely induced by the punishment he endured in the ring. Eventually Ali began to move more like an aged man, and he rarely speaks in public. However, he still makes numerous public appearances and loves to be around people. A devout Muslim, Ali now follows Wallace D. Muhammad's more traditional Islamic organization.

Ali, without question, represented a kind of African-American athlete who was strikingly different from previous heroes such as Joe Louis, Jack Johnson, and Jackie Robinson, although he adopted aspects of their demeanor. His inchoate African-American nationalism and Pan-Africanism fashioned him for the times when youth and nationalism were the hallmarks of the African-American political movement in the United States after 1965. To be sure, Ali was virtually the sole inspiration of the Olympic boycott movement of 1968 (the boycott, aimed at getting South Africa removed from international athletic competition because of its apartheid policy, was not actually carried out). Harry Edwards, John Carlos, Tommie Smith, and the new cadre of militant African-American athletes saw Ali as a hero not only for his brilliance as an athlete who met all challengers in the ring, but also because he stood up for his beliefs. Many may not have agreed with his beliefs but they respected them and Ali's right to hold them.

Moreover, Ali arose at the time when sports were emerging as a big media business in the United States. This greatly benefited Ali; in his heyday he was probably the most photographed and the most televised African-American athlete, perhaps African-American person, in the United States. On the other hand, Ali almost single-handedly made televised boxing a marketable enterprise and made closed-circuit matches the bonanza they became.

Finally, Ali emerged in the era of the assertive athlete who would not accept the traditional lines of authority in sports: the coach/trainer/manager as father figure, the owner/promoter as dictator of the athlete's career path and pay. In this context, it is probably useful to compare the careers of Ali and Joe Namath, the stylish NFL quarterback, who also ducked the draft. Ali did not invent the independent athlete as much as he represented it. In retrospect, it is no surprise that it was during the Ali era that free agency came into organized team sports. After all, at least in the public's eye, if probably not in actual fact, Ali seemed so much a free agent himself.

Rarely was an international audience so moved as when the middle-aged Muhammad Ali, palsied and rendered virtually speechless by boxing-induced Parkinson's syndrome, tremblingly lit the flame that officially opened the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. The man who had, many years earlier, been demonized as an African-American racist, an unpatriotic bum, a coward, a fool, and a disgrace to his profession, who was, in effect, unwelcome in his native land, was now the subject of elegiac accolades. Many viewers openly wept at the sight of this proud but injured man. He had become a grand American hero.

Many books discuss Ali as either a primary subject or a significant actor in someone else's story. Muhammad Ali, with Richard Durham, The Greatest: My Own Story (1975); Gerald Early The Muhammad Ali Reader (1998); George Foreman, By George: The Autobiography of George Foreman (2000); Joe Frazier, with Phil Berger, Smokin' Joe: The Autobiography of a Heavyweight Champion of the World (1996); Elliott Gorn, ed., Muhammad Ali: The People's Champ (1995); Thomas Hauser, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times (1991); Larry Holmes, Larry Holmes: Against the Odds (1998); Ken Norton, with Marshall Terrill and Mike Fitzgerald, Going the Distance: The Ken Norton Story (2000); Mark Kram, The Ghosts of Manila: The Fateful Blood Feud Between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier (2001); Norman Mailer, The Fight (1975); Jack Olsen, Black Is Best: The Riddle of Cassius Clay (1967); George Plimpton, Shadow Box (1977); David Remnick, King ofthe World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of the American Hero (1998); Jeffrey Sammons, Beyond the Ring: The Role of Boxing in American Society (1988); Wilfred Sheed, Muhammad Ali (1975); Jose Torres, Sting Like a Bee: The Muhammad Ali Story (1971); and Nick Tosches, The Devil and Sonny Liston (2000).

Gerald Early

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ali, Muhammad." Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Thematic Series: Sports Figures. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ali, Muhammad." Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Thematic Series: Sports Figures. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ali-muhammad

"Ali, Muhammad." Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Thematic Series: Sports Figures. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ali-muhammad

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Ali, Muhammad

Muhammad Ali

Born January 17, 1942
Louisville, Kentucky

Boxer

Muhammad Ali was one of the best athletes of the twentieth century. On three occasions he won the world heavyweight boxing championship. But he is as equally renowned for two controversial decisions that transcend sports. First, in 1964, just after he earned his first boxing title, he announced that he had left the Christian faith to join the Nation of Islam. Three years later, as American involvement in the Vietnam War (1954–75) was rapidly increasing, he refused induction into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs. Although Ali was first and foremost a boxer, his commitment to seeking out a meaningful religious identification and engaging in political protest helped make him a symbol for the changes that swept American society in the 1960s.

"[Muhammad] Ali had brought beauty and grace to the most uncompromising of sports.… [T]hrough the wonderful excesses of skill and character, he had become the most famous athlete, indeed, the best-known personage in the world."

—George Plimpton, quoted in Time, June 14, 1999.

Birth of a boxer

Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. His attraction to boxing was sparked when he was twelve years old. Learning that his bicycle had been stolen, he angrily announced that he would catch and fight the thief. In order to do so, he would first have to learn how to fight. The youngster immediately began doing just that, working out with Joe Martin, a Louisville police officer. He also became skilled in the art and science of boxing under the expertise of Fred Stoner, a trainer. Shortly thereafter, Clay fought and won his first amateur bout.

An Olympic Champ Encounters Racism

Returning to Louisville after representing the United States at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Cassius Clay proudly wore his gold medal for all to see. At the time, segregation—separation of people according to race—still ruled the American South. African Americans were forced to use substandard facilities in all aspects of public life, from restaurants to restrooms. Despite the honor he had brought his country, the young boxer remained a second-class citizen solely because of the color of his skin.

One evening, the young Olympic champion entered a downtown Louisville five-and-dime store to purchase a hamburger and soda. As he attempted to place his order, he was told by the waitress that the store did not "serve coloreds." Clay was shocked and saddened. He walked to a nearby bridge, ripped off the medal that he wore around his neck, and tossed it into the Ohio River.

Throughout his youth, Clay did little more than train, box, and dream about launching a professional career and winning a world championship. During this period he fought 116 amateur bouts and was the winner in 108 of them. His natural athletic ability coupled with his rigid training earned him two Amateur Athletic Union championships, six state Golden Gloves titles, and two national Golden Gloves titles. When he was eighteen, Clay won a gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games, which were held in Rome, Italy. Then he turned professional. He won his first pro fight a month later, defeating Tunney Hunsaker in his hometown.

The Louisville Sponsoring Group, which then managed Clay, linked him up with Angelo Dundee (1921–), an experienced and respected trainer. Under Dundee's guidance, Clay, who stood 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 190 pounds, further developed as a fighter. The veteran trainer taught the young boxer to use his speed and powerful lower body to his best advantage. He remained in the boxer's corner for the next twenty-one years.

Early in his career, Clay chose not to throw punches to his opponent's body while in the ring. He wanted to avoid getting too close to the other boxer. Instead, he used his legs to glide around the ring, daring an opponent to go on the offensive. Then, at the most opportune moment, when his opponent was unprotected, Clay delivered his own punches. He also developed a foot movement that came to be known as the "Ali Shuffle." Here, the boxer rapidly moved his feet and rose off the ground, making him an even more hard-to-hit target. While on the move, he even occasionally threw a punch.

Another factor separated Clay from other boxers: he was as much a showman as an athlete. Plus, he possessed a gift for grabbing headlines by cleverly taunting his opponents. His mouth was constantly in motion as he teased his rivals, and he often predicted the round in which he would knock them out. "I'm so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark," he once bragged, as quoted in Walter Dean Myers's The Greatest. On another occasion he quipped, "If you even dream of beating me you'd better wake up and apologize." He dubbed himself "The Greatest" and fearlessly mocked opponents by name. He declared that "[Joe] Frazier is so ugly he should donate his face to the U.S. Bureau of Wild Life." He once said: "Now you see me, now you don't. George [Foreman] thinks he will, but I know he won't!" Many of his quips rhymed. One of his most celebrated was: "Float like a butterfly. Sting like a bee. Your hands can't hit what your eyes can't see."

The new heavyweight champ

Cassius Clay, as he still was called, came to the forefront of boxing in the early 1960s when interest in the sport was declining. His talents in the ring, combined with his flair for self-promotion, helped revive the sport. Of his taunts, he noted that he was not boasting if he could prove what he said was true. The boxer did make good on his predictions by piling victory upon victory. In February 1964, he became World Heavyweight Champion by upsetting a tough opponent, Sonny Liston (c. 1932–1970), in Miami, Florida. Before the bout, many boxing journalists rejected Clay, the underdog, as little more than a braggart. He responded to them, after defeating Liston, telling them to "eat" their words because he was the greatest.

The day after his victory, the brash young champ further shocked boxing and non-boxing fans with an announcement. He revealed that he had joined the Nation of Islam, a black militant and separatist movement loosely based on the Islamic religion. After that, he no longer wanted to be called Cassius Clay. Instead, his new name would be Cassius X. The "X" represented the long-forgotten African name that slave owners had stripped from his ancestors centuries earlier. Soon afterward he changed his name again, this time to Muhammad Ali. "Cassius Clay is a slave name," he declared, according to Ali's autobiography, The Greatest: My Own Story. "I didn't choose it, and I didn't want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free name—it means beloved of God—and I insist people use it when speaking to me and of me."

The response to Ali's decision was swift and negative. His popularity plunged. Ali's reaction was equally forceful. "I am America," Ali announced, as noted in his autobiography. "I am the part you won't recognize, but get used to me. Black, confident, cocky—my name, not yours. My religion, not yours. My goals, my own. Get used to me." Many chose not to get used to him and insisted on referring to Ali by his birth name. One was Ernie Terrell, a boxer who challenged Ali in the ring. "What's my name, fool? What's my name?" Ali shouted at Terrell while beating him in a 1967 bout.

A controversial refusal

Controversy aside, Ali kept fighting during the mid-1960s, successfully defending his title. He beat Liston in a 1965 rematch, scoring a first-round knockout. Later that year, he pummeled Floyd Patterson (1935–), another ex-heavyweight champ. Then in 1967, as President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973; served 1963–69) escalated the war in Vietnam, Ali was drafted into the U.S. military. Ali decided to refuse induction, based on the fact that he was a practicing Muslim minister. He was also a conscientious objector, someone who refuses military service on moral or religious grounds. That April, Ali appeared at a Houston, Texas, military induction center. He was told to step forward three times. On each occasion, he declined. He was informed that his refusal was a felony, carrying a maximum punishment of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Still, he refused induction.

Ali added fuel to the hullabaloo with his much-publicized declaration that he had "no quarrel" with the Vietcong. The Vietcong were allies of the North Vietnamese army, which the U.S. military was fighting overseas. The resulting controversy led just about every municipality in the United States to revoke Ali's boxing license. In May 1967 a federal grand jury indicted him for draft evasion. He stood trial the following month. After discussing the case for just twenty-one minutes, the jury declared him guilty and the judge imposed the maximum penalty. Ali petitioned that the verdict be reversed, but a court of appeals supported his conviction. His March 1967 fight against Zora Folley was Ali's last for three-and-a-half years. His title as World Champion was taken from him, as was his passport; he was sentenced to five years in jail, though he was soon released as his case was appealed.

By 1970, however, the temper of America had radically changed. More and more citizens had begun to oppose the war in Vietnam. Public support for Ali strongly increased, and he was allowed to mount a comeback. He returned to the ring in October 1970, fighting and beating Jerry Quarry in Georgia, which had no state boxing commission. After defeating Oscar Bonavena, he battled Joe Frazier (1944–), an imposing adversary, in March 1971 at New York's Madison Square Garden. Both were undefeated heavyweights, and both received a then-record $2.5 million. Ali's long absence from boxing became a factor on that occasion, as he no longer could dance effectively around the ring. He was floored by a Frazier punch in the fifteenth round and lost the fight. It was his first professional defeat, after thirty-one victories. But Ali soon won a more significant battle. Three months after his defeat by Frazier, the U.S. Supreme Court tossed aside his conviction for draft evasion.

Inside the ropes again

Following the Supreme Court decision, Ali could concentrate solely on revitalizing his boxing career. Between July 1971 and January 1974, he won thirteen bouts (including a rematch with Frazier); his only loss came against Ken Norton. Then he was pitted against George Foreman (1948–), the reigning heavyweight champion. Their October 1974 bout came to be known as "The Rumble in the Jungle," after its location in the tropical jungle of Kinshasa, Zaire, Africa. Foreman already had easily beaten Norton and Frazier and surely would be a tough opponent.

While in training, Ali came up with a secret weapon, called "The Rope-a-Dope." It was a tactic in which Ali leaned on the ropes and covered his body while allowing Foreman to throw punches until he wore himself out. Then, at just the right moment, Ali would go on the offensive. After seven rounds of endlessly pounding Ali, Foreman was exhausted. In the eighth round, Ali knocked Foreman out. He had regained the heavyweight title.

Ali fought Frazier a third time in October 1975 in Manila, the Philippines, in what was billed as the "Thrilla in Manila." Ali emerged the winner. Boxing historians consider this one of the greatest bouts in boxing history. After six more victories, Ali lost his title in February 1978 in an upset against 1976 Olympic Gold Medal winner Leon Spinks, but he won it back in a rematch later that year. This victory made Ali the first boxer in history to become heavyweight champion on three different occasions.

Soon afterward, Ali announced his retirement. But the lure of earning additional millions caused him to return to boxing after a two-year layoff. After two more fights, both defeats (to Larry Holmes in 1980 and Trevor Berbick in 1981), Ali retired permanently with a record of fifty-six wins and five losses. Thirty-seven of his victories came by knockout.

A beloved figure

By the 1980s, the public perception of Ali had completely reversed. Back in the 1960s, he had been called a traitor to his country and was seen by many as a dangerous symbol of black rage. In the 1980s, however, he was a heroic figure, universally loved and admired.

In retirement, Ali faced serious health issues. In 1982 he was treated for Parkinson's disease, a neurological disorder that severely hampered his ability to talk and move. More specifically, the affliction was diagnosed as Pugilistic Parkinsonism, a condition brought about by continuous trauma to the head. While this once-vibrant man was debilitated by illness, he still remained in the public eye, appearing at sports events and fundraisers. He was again in the international limelight during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, when he lit the torch that signaled the beginning of the games.

Once famed for spouting quotations in which he brashly and cleverly mocked opponents, Ali also has offered thoughts that are philosophical and humanistic. He has commented on such diverse subjects as poverty, spirituality, and racism. Of poverty, he stated: "Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change." His comments on spirituality include: "We have one life. It soon will be past. What we do for God is all that will last." He has also noted: "Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams—they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do—they all contain truths." And on racism, Ali observed: "Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn't matter which color does the hating. It's just plain wrong." Ali's quotes appear on many Web sites, including 10KTruth.

For More Information

Books

Ali, Muhammad, with Richard Durham. The Greatest: My Own Story. New York: Random House, 1975.

Brunt, Stephen. Facing Ali. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, 2003.

Dennis, Felix, and Don Atyeo. Muhammad Ali: The Glory Years. New York: Miramax Books, 2003.

Myers, Walter Dean. The Greatest: Muhammad Ali. New York: Scholastic Press, 2001.

Schulman, Arlene. Muhammad Ali. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner, 2000.

Tessitore, John. Muhammad Ali: The World's Champion. New York: F. Watts, 1998.

Web Sites

Muhammad Ali.http://www.ali.com (accessed August 2004).

"Muhammad Ali: The Making of a Champ." Courier-Journal.com.http://www.courier-journal.com/ali (accessed August 2004).

Plimpton, George. "TIME 100: Muhammad Ali." Time.com.http://www.time.com/time/time100/heroes/profile/ali01.html (accessed August 2004).

"Quotes by Muhammad Ali." 10KTruth.http://www.10ktruth.com/the_quotes/ali.htm (accessed August 2004).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ali, Muhammad." The Sixties in America Reference Library. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ali, Muhammad." The Sixties in America Reference Library. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ali-muhammad-1

"Ali, Muhammad." The Sixties in America Reference Library. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ali-muhammad-1

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Ali, Muhammad 1942–

Ali, Muhammad 1942–

(Cassius Clay, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.)

PERSONAL: Original name, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.; born January 17, 1942, in Louisville, KY; son of Cassius Marcellus, Sr. (a sign and mural painter) and Odessa (a domestic servant; maiden name, Grady) Clay; married Sonji Roi (divorced, 1966); married Kalilah Tolona (original name, Belinda Boyd), April 18, 1967 (divorced, 1977); married Veronica Porche, 1977 (divorced); married Yolanda "Lonnie" Williams, November 19, 1986; children: (second marriage) Maryum, Rasheeda, Jamillah, Muhammad, Jr.; (third marriage) Miya, Khalilah, Hana Yasmeen, Laila; (fourth marriage) Asaad. Religion: Sunni Muslim.

ADDRESSES: Home—Ali Estate, Berrien Springs, MI 49103. Agent—Crawford Literary Agency, 198 Evans Rd., Barnstead, NH 03218.

CAREER: Professional boxer, 1960–81; political activist, lecturer, entrepreneur, actor, and philanthropist. Actor in the Broadway musical Buck White, 1969. Appeared in the films Requiem for a Heavyweight, Columbia, 1962; The Greatest, Columbia, 1977; Body and Soul, Cannon, 1981; Doin' Time, Warner Bros., 1985; and When We Were Kings: The True Story of the Rumble in the Jungle, Gramercy Pictures, 1996. Appeared on television programs, including the series Tomorrow's Champions, [Louisville, KY], 1950s; the miniseries Freedom Road, National Broadcasting Co., 1979; and the television documentary special Muhammad Ali: The Whole Story, Turner Network Television, c. 1996; voice for the animated series Muhammad Ali, syndicated, beginning 1977. Also worked as a janitor.

AWARDS, HONORS: Winner of six Golden Glove titles in Kentucky, 1950s; National Golden Gloves Championship, light heavyweight champion, 1959, heavyweight champion, 1960; light heavyweight champion, American Athletic Union, 1959 and 1960; light heavyweight division gold medal, Olympic Games, 1960; Ring magazine, named world heavyweight champion, 1964–70 and 1974–78, inducted into Boxing Hall of Fame, 1987; world heavyweight champion, World Boxing Association, 1964–67, 1974–78, 1978–79; heavyweight champion, North American Boxing Federation, 1971 and 1973; Associated Press Sports Award, male athlete of the year, 1974; named sportsman of the year, Sports Illustrated, 1974; named S. Rae Hickok Professional Athlete of the Year, Hickok Manufacturing Co., 1974; inducted into U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, United States Olympic Committee, 1983; Meritorious Service Award, BWA, 1985; Freedom Award, Indiana Black Expo, 1987; Jim Thorpe Pro Sports Award, lifetime achievement, 1992; Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Award, Arab American Institute Foundation, 2004.

WRITINGS:

I Am the Greatest (sound recording), Sony, 1963, reissued, 1999.

(With Richard Durham) The Greatest: My Own Story, Random House (New York, NY), 1975.

The Greatest (sound recording), music composed by Michael Masser, Arista (New York, NY), 1977.

Ali! Ali!: The Words of Muhammad Ali, edited by Sultan Karim, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (New York, NY), 1979.

(With Thomas Hauser) Healing, Collins Publishers San Francisco (San Francisco, CA), 1996.

I Am the Greatest: The Best Quotations from Muhammed Ali, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2002.

(With daughter Hana Yasmeen Ali) The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey, photographs by Howard Bingham, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor to books, including The End of Tolerance?, Nicholas Brealey (London, England), 2002; and introduction to Louisville: The Greatest City, Towery Publishers (Memphis, TN), 2000.

SIDELIGHTS: Muhammad Ali and his "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" style of fighting dominated the world of heavyweight boxing for a decade and a half. As a teenager named Cassius Clay, he won the gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Olympic Games. He later earned the title of world heavyweight champion and became internationally famous for his confidence both in and out of the boxing ring. But when Ali lit the flame to open the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, his arm visibly shook as he raised the torch. The former fighter suffers from Parkinson's disease. Throughout his busy and sometimes controversial public life, Ali remains one of the most famous and popular athletes of the twentieth century. A consummate showman, he used to call himself "the Greatest," and many of his fans believe that the nickname fits.

Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., in 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. His father made a living painting signs and murals, and his mother worked as a domestic servant. Clay contributed to his family's finances by working as a janitor at a nearby college. He took up boxing when he was twelve years old. When his bicycle was stolen, young Clay reported the theft to Joe Elsby Martin, a Louisville police officer who ran a youth program teaching boys how to box. Martin invited Clay to join the program and soon Clay appeared on Tomorrow's Champions, a local television boxing show.

Clay initially worked under Martin's tutelage for two hours a day. He later trained an additional four hours a day with Fred Stoner, a trainer at Louisville's Grace Community Center. The boxer credited Stoner with helping him develop his style and improve his stamina. Watching the televised bouts of top professional heavyweights such as Floyd Patterson and Archie Moore, Clay believed that he could beat those fighters because they did not move much in the ring. Clay had adopted a technique of evading blows by ducking, leaning away, and sidestepping punches, thus forcing his opponents to waste energy swinging at empty air. This boxing style served Clay well. He won 100 of 108 amateur fights, capturing the Kentucky Golden Gloves championship six times, the national Golden Gloves championship twice, and the American Athletic Union championships twice. Clay's amateur career culminated with his gold medal-winning trip to the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Italy.

After returning from Rome, Clay trained with former boxing champion Archie Moore under the sponsorship of wealthy backers from Louisville. Clay then began training with Angelo Dundee, who was impressed with the young man's discipline. Dundee would remain with Clay throughout his career. As a professional boxer, Clay proceeded to win an unbroken string of matches from 1960 through the end of 1963. During this time he gained notoriety as a showman, bragging before each match and predicting the round his opponent would fall. He would often make these personal assertions and predictions in a rhyming doggerel style that became his trademark: "They'll all fall in the round I call." Of his bout with Archie Moore, whom he defeated after four rounds on November 15, 1962, Clay said, "When you come to the fight, / Don't block the halls, / And don't block the door, / For y'all may go home / After round four."

Clay's theatrics reached a fever pitch during the weigh-in before his February 25, 1964 match with Sonny Liston. He hurled a string of invectives at Liston, calling him a "chump" and "an ugly old bear," and pretended to lunge at the older fighter. He continued taunting Liston in the ring, goading him into making ineffective rushes and answering with a flurry of punches. This punishment took its toll, as Clay won the bout and became the new world heavyweight champion. Drew Brown supposedly coined the phrase "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" to describe Clay's performance during this fight.

After the championship fight, Clay announced that was changing his name to Muhammad Ali. The boxer had joined the Nation of Islam, a group of Muslim African Americans. The 1960s were turbulent years for race relations in the United States—the Civil Rights movement was in full swing—and some white Americans viewed the Nation of Islam as a subversive anti-white group. Ali faced Liston for a rematch on May 25, 1965 and floored the former champion in the first round. Later in 1965 Ali fought Floyd Patterson and defeated him in the twelfth round. Ali dispatched five challengers in 1966 and two more in early 1967. During this period at least two white boxers, Patterson and Ernie Terrell, refused to call Ali by his new name, spurring Ali to fight these opponents more viciously.

Ali's first reign as the heavyweight champion was drawing to a close. The biggest controversy he had ever faced would soon interrupt his career. The war in Vietnam was raging and Ali's draft status was changed from 1-Y to 1-A, making the fighter a prime candidate for military service. Some critics of the decision believed that it was made as a reaction to Ali's joining the Nation of Islam. When the Selective Service board required him to report for the draft, Ali asked for an exemption, claiming he was a conscientious objector on religious grounds. In a widely-publicized statement, Ali announced, "I ain't got no quarrel with those Vietcong, anyway," adding that "they never called me nigger." The Selective Service denied his request and ordered him to report to the United States Army in 1967. Ali refused to go. The World Boxing Association subsequently stripped him of his title and his license to fight. The United States government revoked Ali's passport, preventing Ali from fighting abroad. In 1967 a federal court found Ali guilty of violating the Selective Service Act. He was fined 10,000 dollars and sentenced to five years in jail. Ali never served the jail term due to a series of appeals.

Ali became a favorite of student activists who opposed the hostilities in Vietnam. He spoke at schools, peace rallies, and Muslim gatherings during his exile from the boxing ring. Instead of fading from public view, Ali managed to broaden his fame beyond the boxing arena. He even starred in a short-lived Broadway musical, Buck White, in 1969. Ali's lawyers argued his case before the United States Supreme Court and on June 20, 1970, the court reversed his conviction. Four months later, Ali returned to the ring.

Meanwhile, a new fighter named Joe Frazier had won the heavyweight championship. According to Sports Illustrated contributor William Nack: "During his exile Ali, who had to earn his money on the college lecture circuit, began to knock at Frazier's door, seeking help to get back his license to fight, saying that an Ali-Frazier match would make them both rich." Ali fought two matches in 1970, but he wanted a shot at the heavyweight title again. Frazier and Ali agreed to fight in New York City's Madison Square Garden for a purse of two and a half million dollars each. As he had done to previous opponents, Ali verbally taunted Frazier in the months leading up to the fight, even going so far as to call Frazier an "Uncle Tom," accusing the African-American Frazier of being subservient to whites. Ali said that the verbal pyrotechnics were only for selling tickets, but Frazier told Sports Illustrated contributor Nack that Ali's words had "stunned" and "shocked" him, especially since the boxers had been good friends. Frazier told Nack that he planned to counter Ali's statements by injuring him in the ring. This background helped create one of the most famous rivalries in boxing history—a rivalry that would span three different matches between the two men.

The first Ali-Frazier match, fought on March 8, 1971, lasted fifteen rounds. Although Frazier retained the championship by a unanimous decision, both men fought hard and had to visit the hospital. Ali fought a series of bouts from 1971 through 1973, and Frazier lost his world heavyweight title to George Foreman during this time. Ali faced Frazier for a second time on January 28, 1974, again at Madison Square Garden. Ali won the fight in the twelfth round.

Beating Frazier cleared the way for Ali to fight Foreman for a chance at the world heavyweight title. The match, billed by Ali as "the rumble in the jungle," took place in Kinshasa, Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo), on October 30, 1974. A music festival featuring B.B. King, James Brown, and Miriam Makeba added to the festive atmosphere in Kinshasa. Since Foreman was cut in training, the fight was delayed for six weeks, leaving more time for Ali to promote both the bout and himself. Prior to the match, Ali predicted: "If you think the world was surprised when Nixon resigned, wait till I kick Foreman's behind!" Ali and Foreman fought in the same arena that the then-Zairian dictator Mobutu Sese Seko used as a prison and place of execution. Ali knocked out a tired Foreman in the match's eighth round, again becoming the heavyweight champion of the world. Film director Leon Gast went along to document the spectacle in Kinshasa, producing the Academy Award-winning documentary When We Were Kings: The True Story of the Rumble in the Jungle.

Ali had successfully defended his championship in other bouts before fighting Frazier again on October 1, 1975, in the Philippine capital of Manila. As William Nack wrote in Sports Illustrated, Ali crowed at a pre-fight press conference: "All night long, this is what you'll see. Come on, gorilla! We're in Manila! Come on, gorilla, this is a thrilla!" He held up a small rubber gorilla in front of Frazier and beat the toy. These statements infuriated Frazier, who was still smarting from Ali's taunts from their previous matches. Possibly using his opponent's words as a motivational tool, Frazier dominated much of the fight until the eleventh round. Ali later rebounded, and Frazier's trainers called the match in the fifteenth round to spare their fighter further injury.

Ali retained the heavyweight title until he was beaten by Leon Spinks on February 15, 1978. Ali's tactic of outlasting his opponents by tiring them did not work with the young Spinks, who remained fresh throughout the fight. The match went the complete fifteen rounds and Spinks won by a split decision. Ali had once again lost his championship title. Against the advice of his physician, Ali agreed to a rematch with Spinks on September 15, 1978. Ali had used the intervening months to improve his conditioning and was in better shape for the later fight. He used his size advantage and backpedaling ability to keep out of the way of Spinks's most powerful punches. At the end of the fight, neither man had done much damage to the other, but Ali had managed to win and regain the heavyweight title. He retired in 1979. He came out of retirement in 1980 to fight Larry Holmes, but lost. After losing his 1981 bout with Trevor Berbick, Ali retired again.

Ali wrote The Greatest: My Own Story with Richard Durham. Although a Choice contributor observed that The Greatest "is oftentimes in hazard of crossing from autobiography into biography," the reviewer added that Ali possesses "a more balanced understanding of his worth than public statements would betray." Meanwhile, a Booklist contributor called The Greatest a "fine collaboration between writer and boxer." Ali's pronouncements, rhymed taunts, Muslim prayers, and personal views appear in Ali! Ali!: The Words of Muhammad Ali, a volume edited by Sultan Karim. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the book "thin and nearly aimless," but noted that Ali's "jabs at other fighters show the champ at his best."

The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey, written in collaboration with Ali's daughter Hana, has been categorized by some people as an autobiography, but others have pointed out that the book is more accurately what the subtitle proclaims it to be: a collection of reflections. The structure of the book seems to follow an autobiographical chronology, linking Ali's musings on universal themes to events in his career and personal life, but it is the themes, not the life, that Ali offers here. Through examples of correspondence, rhymes, and homespun aphorisms, Ali reveals the humility and gentility—the soul of the butterfly—that had no place in the boxing ring. He acknowledges the "bee stings" that peppered his career, apologizing to the victims of his verbal jabs. He also stresses the importance of spiritual values, which Ali himself discovered through the practice of Islam. Jim Burns observed in the Library Journal that The Soul of a Butterfly "affirms the essential decency" of this boxer turned philosopher. "The book has the intensity of a deathbed confessional," suggested a Publishers Weekly contributor, offered in part as a legacy to his beloved children.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Dennis, Felix, and Don Atyeo, Muhammad Ali: The Glory Years, Miramax Books (New York, NY), 2003.

GOAT: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali, Taschen (Cologne, Germany), 2003.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, December 15, 1975, review of The Greatest: My Own Story, p. 539; October 15, 2004, John Green, review of The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey, p. 362.

Books and Bookman, May, 1976, review of The Greatest, p. 62.

Books, summer, 2000, "Muhammad Ali: My Journey," p. 20.

BooksWest, October, 1977, review of The Greatest, p. 35.

Choice, May, 1976, review of The Greatest, p. 398.

Ebony, November, 2004, review of The Soul of a Butterfly, p. 29.

Economist, March 20, 1976, review of The Greatest, p. 114.

Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 1975, review of The Greatest, p. 1212; March 15, 1979, review of Ali! Ali! The Words of Muhammad Ali, p. 356.

Kliatt, winter, 1977, review of The Greatest, p. 35.

Library Journal, January 15, 1976, review of The Greatest, pp. 353-354; December 1, 2004, Jim Burns, review of The Soul of a Butterfly, p. 129.

Maclean's, March 24, 1997, p. 50.

National Review, March 24, 1997, pp. 56-57.

New York Review of Books, October 30, 1975, review of The Greatest, p. 3.

New York Times, November 5, 1975, review of The Greatest, p. 41.

New York Times Book Review, November 30, 1975, review of The Greatest, p. 6; December 7, 1975, review of The Greatest, p. 55.

Phylon, March, 1976, review of The Greatest, p. 103.

Publishers Weekly, October 20, 1975, review of The Greatest, p. 64; March 5, 1979, review of Ali! Ali!, p. 98; October 25, 2004, review of The Soul of a Butterfly, p. 36.

School Library Journal, January, 1976, review of The Greatest, p. 58; May, 1976, review of The Greatest, p. 36.

Sports Illustrated, September 30, 1996, article by William Nack, pp. 52-63.

Top of the News, April, 1976, review of The Greatest, p. 284.

Village Voice, November 10, 1975, review of The Greatest, p. 55.

Washington Post Book World, August 31, 1975, review of The Greatest, p. 2.

ONLINE

Muhammad Ali Web site, http://www.ali.com (December 30, 2005).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ali, Muhammad 1942–." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ali, Muhammad 1942–." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/ali-muhammad-1942

"Ali, Muhammad 1942–." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/ali-muhammad-1942

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.