Cleat Geeks

37 Facts You May Not Know About Muhammad Ali, 1 For Each KO

This has become a tradition on this website to honor our athletes when their life reaches it’s expiration point. We do our best to have you relive memories of the fallen athlete if you watched him or her in your life. Moreover, if you never had the privilege to see the fallen athlete live, this is sort of a history lesson as well. Lastly, we hope that wither you saw the athlete live or not we hope to teach you a thing or two about the athlete we honor that you did not know. Here we go.

CassiusClayChild1) Ali was born January 17th 1942 as Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky he was named for his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr. who himself was named in honor of the 19th century abolitionist and politician of the same name.

2) Clay had a sister and four brothers. His father painted signs and billboard for a living.

3) Clay was actually first directed to boxing by a thief and an officer at 12 years old. After a thief stole his bicycle he told an officer he was going to “whup” the thief. The officer, Joe E. Martain, just happened to be boxing instructor as well.

4) Clay won six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union National Title, and the Light Heavyweight Gold Medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.

5) Clay’s amateur record was 100 wins with 5 losses.

6) There are conflicting stories as to what happened to that Gold Medal. Clay claimed in his 1975 autobiography that shortly after his return from the Rome Olympics he threw his gold medal into the Ohio River after he and a friend were refused service at a “whites-only” restaurant and fought with a white gang. Other friends of his claimed that story was false. Regardless, he received a replacement medal at a basketball intermission during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where he lit the torch to start the games.CassiusClayTeen

7) Clay made his professional debut on October 29, 1960, winning a six-round decision over Tunney Hunsaker.

8) From then until the end of 1963, Clay amassed a record of 19–0 with 15 wins by knockout. He defeated boxers including Tony Esperti, Jim Robinson, Donnie Fleeman, Alonzo Johnson, George Logan, Willi Besmanoff, Lamar Clark, Doug Jones and Henry Cooper. Clay also beat his former trainer and veteran boxer Archie Moore in a 1962 match.

9) After Clay left Moore’s camp in 1960, partially due to Clay’s refusing to do chores such as dish-washing and sweeping, he hired Angelo Dundee to be his trainer. Around this time, Clay sought longtime idol Sugar Ray Robinson to be his manager, but Robinson refused.

10) It should be noted that all these fights were not east for Clay. In fact, Clay was knocked down both by Sonny Banks and Cooper. In the Cooper fight, Clay was floored by a left hook at the end of round 4 and was saved by the bell.

11) In each of these fights, Clay vocally belittled his opponents as he simultaneously boasted about his own abilities. He was quoted as saying things like; Jones was “an ugly little man” and Cooper was a “bum.” He said he was embarrassed to get in the ring with Alex Miteff and he also was quoted as saying, Madison Square Garden was “too small for me,” an iconic arena that still today has hosted some of the biggest athletic events of all time. Clay’s behavior provoked the ire of many boxing fans.

12) By late 1963, Clay had become the top contender for Sonny Liston’s title. The fight was set for February 25, 1964, in Miami.

13) Liston was an intimidating personality, a dominating fighter with a criminal past and ties to the mob. None of these things seemed to phase Clay. Despite being a 7-1 underdog Clay taunted Liston during the pre-fight buildup, dubbing him “the big ugly bear”. “Liston even smells like a bear,” Clay said. “After I beat him I’m going to donate him to the zoo.” Clay did not stop with that, Clay turned the pre-fight weigh-in into a circus, shouting at Liston that “someone is going to die at ringside tonight.”

14) Many of those in attendance thought Clay’s behavior stemmed from fear, and some commentators wondered if he would show up for the bout. He showed up, and won Liston did not answer the bell for the seventh round, Clay was declared the winner by TKO. Liston stated that the reason he quit was an injured shoulder. Following the win, a triumphant Clay rushed to the edge of the ring and, pointing to the ringside press, shouted: “Eat your words!” To which he also added, “I am the greatest! I shook up the world. I’m the prettiest thing that ever lived.”

TysonAli15) By winning the fight, Clay became the youngest boxer to take the title from a reigning Heavyweight Champion at the age of 22. But, Floyd Patterson was the youngest to win the Heavyweight Championship at 21, during an elimination bout following Rocky Marciano’s retirement. In 1986 when he defeated Trevor Berbick a man by the name of Mike Tyson broke both those records when he won the Heavyweight title at age 20.

16) Soon after the Liston fight, Clay changed his name to Muhammad (one who is worthy of praise) Ali (fourth rightly guided caliph) upon converting to Islam and affiliating with the Nation of Islam. Ali said that he first heard of the (NOI) when he was fighting in the Golden Gloves tournament in Chicago in 1959, and attended his first NOI meeting in 1961. He continued to attend meetings, although keeping his involvement hidden from the public. In 1962, Clay met Malcolm X, who soon became his spiritual and political mentor, and by the time of the first Liston fight NOI members, including Malcolm X, were visible in his entourage.MuhammadAliMalcolmX

17) Clay was initially refused entry to the Nation of Islam (often called the Black Muslims at the time) due to his boxing career. However, after he won the championship from Liston in 1964, the Nation of Islam was more receptive and agreed to recruit him as a member.

18) Ali’s friendship with Malcolm X ended as Malcolm split with the NOI a couple of weeks after Ali joined, and Ali remained with the Nation. Ali later would admit that turning his back on Malcolm was one of the mistakes he regretted most in his life.

19) The NOI was widely viewed by whites and even some African Americans as a black separatist “hate religion” with a propensity toward violence. Yet Ali had few qualms about using his influential voice to speak NOI doctrine. The following are some quotes said by the newly named Muhammad Ali in different press conferences; In a press conference articulating his opposition to the Vietnam War, Ali stated, “my enemy is the white people, not the Vietcong”. In relation to integration, he said: “We who follow the teachings of Elijah Muhammad don’t want to be forced to integrate. Integration is wrong. We don’t want to live with the white man; that’s all.” And in relation to inter-racial marriage: “No intelligent black man or black woman in his or her right black mind wants white boys and white girls coming to their homes to marry their black sons and daughters.”

20) In the 2nd Liston fight referee Jersey Joe Walcott stopped the fight declaring Ali the winner by knockout. The entire fight lasted less than two minutes.

AliListon21) Ali defended his title against former Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson on November 22, 1965 and won. Soon after Ali fought Cleveland Williams in the Houston Astrodome on November 14, 1966. According to Sports Illustrated, the bout drew a then-indoor world record crowd of 35,460 people. Williams had once been considered among the hardest punchers in the heavyweight division, but in 1964 he had been shot at point-blank range by a Texas policeman, resulting in the loss of one kidney and 10 feet (3.0 m) of his small intestine. Ali dominated Williams, winning a third-round technical knockout.

22) Next, Ali fought Ernie Terrell in Houston on February 6, 1967. Terrell was billed as Ali’s toughest opponent since Liston—unbeaten in five years and having defeated many of the boxers Ali had faced. Terrell was big, strong and had a three-inch reach advantage over Ali. During the lead up to the bout, Terrell repeatedly called Ali “Clay”, much to Ali’s annoyance (Ali called Cassius Clay his “slave name”). The two almost came to blows over the name issue in a pre-fight interview with Howard Cosell. Ali seemed intent on humiliating Terrell. “I want to torture him,” he said. “A clean knockout is too good for him.” The fight was close until the seventh round when Ali bloodied Terrell and almost knocked him out. In the eighth round, Ali taunted Terrell, hitting him with jabs and shouting between punches, “What’s my name, Uncle Tom… what’s my name?” Ali won a unanimous 15-round decision.

23) After Ali’s title defense against Zora Folley on March 22, he was stripped of his title due to his refusal to be drafted to army service. Ali refused to be inducted into the armed forces, stating publicly, “No Vietcong ever called me nigger”. He was systematically denied a boxing license in every state and stripped of his passport. As a result, he did not fight from March 1967 to October 1970—from ages 25 to almost 29—as his case worked its way through the appeal process. In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction in a unanimous 8-0 ruling with Thurgood Marshall abstaining from the case.

24) On August 12, 1970, with his case still in appeal, Ali was granted a license to box by the City of Atlanta Athletic Commission. Ali’s first return bout was against Jerry Quarry on October 26, resulting in a win after three rounds after Quarry was cut. A month prior, a victory in federal court forced the New York State Boxing Commission to reinstate Ali’s license, this allowed Ali to fight Oscar Bonavena at Madison Square Garden in December of 1970. After 14 rounds of uninspired performance the 15th round ended in a dramatic TKO of Bonavena. The win left Ali as a top contender against heavyweight champion Joe Frazier.fight-poster-320

25) Ali and Frazier’s first fight, held at the Garden on March 8, 1971, was nicknamed the “Fight of the Century”, due to the tremendous excitement surrounding a bout between two undefeated fighters, each with a legitimate claim as Heavyweight Champions. The fight was even in the early rounds, but Ali was taking more punishment than ever in his career. On several occasions in the early rounds he played to the crowd and shook his head “no” after he was hit. In the later rounds—in what was the first appearance of the “rope-a-dope strategy”—Ali leaned against the ropes and absorbed punishment from Frazier, hoping to tire him. In the 11th round, Frazier connected with a left hook that wobbled Ali, but because it appeared that Ali might be clowning as he staggered backwards across the ring, Frazier hesitated to press his advantage, fearing an Ali counter-attack. In the final round, Frazier knocked Ali down with a vicious left hook, which referee Arthur Mercante said was as hard as a man can be hit. Ali was back on his feet in three seconds. Nevertheless, Ali lost by unanimous decision, his first professional defeat.

26) For this fight and all his others until the end of his career in the 80’s Ali found a five-acre site on a Pennsylvania country road in the village of Deer Lake. On this site, Ali carved out what was to become his training camp, the camp where he lived and trained. The camp still stands today and is now a bed and breakfast.

AliChamberlain27) Basketball star Wilt Chamberlain challenged Ali, and a fight was scheduled for July 26th of 1971. Although the seven foot two inch tall Chamberlain had formidable physical advantages over Ali, weighing 60 pounds more and able to reach 14 inches further, Ali was able to intimidate Chamberlain into calling off the bout. This happened during a shared press conference with Chamberlain in which Ali repeatedly responded to reporters with the traditional lumberjack warning, “Timber,” and said, “The tree will fall!” With these statements of confidence, Ali was able to unsettle his taller opponent into calling off the bout.

28) In 1972 Ali won a total of six fights. In 1973, Ali suffered the second loss of his career at the hands of Ken Norton, who broke Ali’s jaw during the fight. After initially contemplating retirement, Ali won a controversial decision against Norton in their second bout, leading to a rematch at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 1974, with Joe Frazier, who had recently lost his title to George Foreman. In that bout the judges awarded Ali a unanimous decision.

30) The defeat of Frazier set the stage for a title fight against heavyweight champion George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire, on October 30, 1974—a bout nicknamed “The Rumble in the Jungle.” Almost no one associated with the sport, not even Ali’s long-time supporter Howard Cosell, gave the former champion a chance of winning. As usual, Ali was confident and colorful before the fight. He told interviewer David Frost, “If you think the world was surprised when Nixon resigned, wait ’til I whup Foreman’s behind!” He told the press, “I’ve done something new for this fight. I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick; I’m so mean I make medicine sick.”AliForeman

31) Ali opened the fight moving and scoring with right crosses to Foreman’s head. Then, beginning in the second round—and to the consternation of his corner—Ali retreated to the ropes and invited Foreman to hit him while covering up, clinching and counter-punching—all while verbally taunting Foreman. (“Is that all you got, George? They told me you could hit.”)Foreman, increasingly angered, threw punches that were deflected and did not land squarely. Midway through the fight, as Foreman began tiring, Ali countered more frequently and effectively with punches and flurries, which electrified the pro-Ali crowd. In the eighth round, Ali dropped an exhausted Foreman with a combination at center ring; Foreman failed to make the count. Against the odds, and amidst pandemonium in the ring, Ali had regained the title by knockout. In reflecting on the fight, George Foreman later said: “I’ll admit it. Muhammad outthought me and outfought me.”

32) Ali’s next opponents included Chuck Wepner, Ron Lyle and Joe Bugner. Wepner, a journeyman known as “The Bayonne Bleeder”, stunned Ali with a knockdown in the ninth round; Ali would later say he tripped on Wepner’s foot. It was a bout that would inspire Sylvester Stallone to create the acclaimed film, Rocky.

MMuhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier in Thrilla in Manila

33) Ali then agreed to a third match with Joe Frazier in Manila. The bout, known as the “Thrilla in Manila”, was held on October 1, 1975.  In the first rounds, Ali was aggressive, moving and exchanging blows with Frazier. However, Ali soon appeared to tire and adopted the “rope-a-dope” strategy. In the 12th round, Frazier began to tire, and Ali scored several sharp blows that closed Frazier’s left eye and opened a cut over his right eye. With Frazier’s vision now diminished, Ali dominated the 13th and 14th rounds.  The fight was stopped when Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch, refused to allow Frazier to answer the bell for the 15th and final round, despite Frazier’s protests. Frazier’s eyes were both swollen shut. Ali, in his corner, winner by TKO, slumped on his stool, clearly spent. After the fight Ali cited Frazier as “the greatest fighter of all times next to me”.

34) After a few other fights Ali fought Ken Norton for the third time at Yankee Stadium in September 1976, where Ali won by a heavily contested decision, which was loudly booed by the audience. He reacted to the fallout of this by announcing a brief retirement to practice his faith in Islam.

ferdie-pacheco-getty35) After winning against Alfredo Evangelista in May 1977, Ali struggled in his next fight against Earnie Shavers that September, who pummeled him a few times with punches to the head. Ali won the fight by another unanimous decision, but the bout caused his longtime doctor Ferdie Pacheco to quit after he was rebuffed for telling Ali he should retire. Pacheco was quoted as saying, “the New York State Athletic Commission gave me a report that showed Ali’s kidneys were falling apart. I wrote to Angelo Dundee, Ali’s trainer, his wife and Ali himself. I got nothing back in response. That’s when I decided enough is enough.”

36) Following this win, on July 27, 1979, Ali announced his retirement from boxing. His retirement was short-lived, however; Ali announced his comeback to face Larry Holmes for the WBC belt in an attempt to win the heavyweight championship an unprecedented fourth time.Ali+and+Holmes The fight was largely motivated by Ali’s need for money. Boxing writer Richie Giachetti said, “Larry didn’t want to fight Ali. He knew Ali had nothing left; he knew it would be a horror.” It was around this time that Ali started struggling with vocal stutters and trembling hands. The Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) ordered that he undergo a complete physical in Las Vegas before being allowed to fight again. Ali chose instead to check into the Mayo Clinic, who declared him fit to fight. Their opinion was accepted by the NAC on July 31, 1980, paving the way for Ali’s return to the ring. The fight took place on October 2, 1980, in Las Vegas, with Holmes easily dominating Ali. Actor Sylvester Stallone, who was at ringside said it was like watching an autopsy on a man who is still alive.

37) Despite pleas to definitively retire, Ali fought one last time on December 11, 1981 in Nassau against Trevor Berbick, losing a ten-round decision. Sadly, The Holmes fight is said to have greatly contributed to Ali’s Parkinson’s Syndrome.



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