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Muhammad Ali -The Greatest - 2
After his tremendous victory over Liston, Cassius Clay, who was only twenty-two, became the first boxer to assume such a title at an early age. The new champion was also popular for his trash-talk poetry, expressing confidence and self-importance. Clay started to write short poems predicting his future victories in different fights and used those poems and sayings before or sometimes during his fights as an attempt to intimidate his opponents, also to make fun of them and of course to pump himself up. The newly crowned champion was very proud of his achievements and victories; he often used to refer to himself as "The Greatest".
Yet, in 1964, Clay shocked the boxing community as well as the entire world when he declared publicly that he had converted to the religion of Islam. Shortly afterwards, he first changed his name from Cassius Marcellus Clay to "Cassius X", then on March 6th, 1964 he officially took the name Muhammad Ali which, in fact, was given to him by Elijah Muhammad who used to be his spiritual leader. From this day forward, Clay would be known worldwide as Muhammad Ali.
Following his conversion, Ali proudly defended his first title in a rematch against Liston on May 25th, 1965. He beat his opponent in the first round by knockout. More surprisingly, the fight had just lasted for only two minutes. For the coming three years, Muhammad Ali challenged and defeated several professional boxers like Floyd Patterson, Brian London and Cleveland Williams. Ali's incredible triumph over Williams was shortly followed by his exceptional and impressive victory over Ernie Terrell in an unforgettable fight which took place in Houston on February 6th, 1967. In a pre-fight press conference, Terrell, who absolutely remained the undefeated fighter for almost five years, kept calling Ali by his former name "Clay". As a consequence, Ali promised that he would torture his opponent and beat him up. During the fight, Muhammad Ali, who was extremely excited, brutally hit Terrell several times in the eyes and forced him to fight half-blind. He also kept yelling angrily: "What is my name, Uncle Tom?". After fifteen lusty rounds, Ali was declared winner.
On April 28th, 1967 Muhammad Ali refused to join the U.S Army during the Vietnam War. Furthermore, he strongly opposed the war and declared that he was not obliged to serve under any circumstances. His press statements as an objector to the war had brought him considerable media attention. As a result, the boxing authorities stripped the champion of all his titles; even his boxing license was suspended. Moreover, Ali was sentenced to five years in jail, but fortunately, he was released on appeal. This, somehow, had had some negative impact on the champion's boxing career. Regrettably, the champion lost precious time as he was not allowed to fight for nearly four years.
It was only in the early 1970s when Muhammad Ali was finally given the permission to box again. His first fight took place in Atlanta, on October 26th, 1970 against Jerry Quarry. The returning hero easily won the fight in the third round by knockout. On March 8th of the following year, Ali challenged Joe Frazier who became the World Heavyweight champion during Ali's absence from the ring. Unfortunately, Ali lost the fight after fifteen rounds. This, in fact, was Ali's first loss as a professional boxer. Following his failure, Ali defeated several boxers and then on January 28th, 1974 he won in a rematch against Frazier.
On October 30th, 1974 one of the unforgettable boxing fights took place in Kinshasa, Zaire between George Foreman, who in 1973 became the new heavyweight champion of the world and Muhammad Ali. This incredible fight was referred to as the "Rumble in the Jungle". Ali won this fight in the eighth round and recaptured his heavyweight title. Over the next few years, Ali, who was at the peak of his fame, defeated numerous well-known boxers and won a second victory over Joe Frazier on October 1st, 1975 in what would later be known as the "greatest heavyweight fight of all time". But in 1978, the undefeated champion lost his title out to Leon Spinks. Several months later, Ali beat him and regained the championship for the third and the last time. Muhammad Ali retired from boxing at the age of thirty-nine, with a record of 56 wins including 37 knockouts and 5 losses after he failed to defeat Trevor Berbick on December 11th, 1981.
Muhammad Ali's later years were a little difficult as his health condition went from bad to worse. Despite being diagnosed in 1984 with Parkinson's disease, the retired hero remained in the public spotlight for several years to come. The three-time World Heavyweight champion was seen in different TV shows and was interviewed by a lot of famous sports reporters. Actually, he was named the "Fighter of the Year" for five times. Ali was also given the honour to light the Olympic Cauldron during the ceremonial opening of the 1996 Summer Olympics. In 2005, he was reverentially awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The most-beloved sports figure in the world and one of the greatest humanitarians of modern history passed away on June 3rd, 2016 at the age of 74.
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