When he first hit the scene, he called himself "The Greatest" and people scoffed; Today, the majority of boxing fans consider him to be "The Greatest"
Ali was involved in several historic boxing matches such as the three with rival Joe Frazier and one with George Foreman, whom he beat by knockout to win the world heavyweight title for the second time.
Ali was known for his fighting style, which he described as "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." Ali made a name for himself with his speed and swift foot work. He was known for his taunting tactics and his style which was described as fast and sharp.
Many believe that it was Ali's inability to give up the sport that led to his decline in health. Ali was officially diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1984. Despite his disability, Ali remains in the public eye as an active figure and ambassador to not only his sport but to American athletics.
Ali was sentenced to five years in prison and a ten-thousand dollar fine- the maximum. Eventually, in June 1971, the Supreme Court would vindicate him in a unanimous decision, but after knocking out Zora Folley one month after refusing the draft, he would not fight for three and a half years, the prime of his boxing life.
Ali's actions in refusing military service and aligning himself with the Nation of Islam made him a lightning rod of controversy, turning the outspoken but popular former champion into one of that era's most recognizable and controversial figures.
By March 1967, his record stood at 29-0. One month later he refused to step forward for induction into the army during the Vietnam War, claiming conscientious objector status. “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong,” he said, adding, “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.”
Ali is an American myth who has come to mean many things to many people: a symbol of faith, a symbol of conviction and defiance, a symbol of beauty and skill and courage, a symbol of racial pride, of wit and love. Ali is a living symbol, as ambiguous and free-floating as may symbols are, but he remains important.
In February 1964, when he was only twenty-two years old, he fought and defeated Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship of the world.
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.