Muhammad Ali’s biography

The self-proclaimed greatest’, Muhammad Ali has enjoyed an astonishing career, transforming from underdog boxer to cultural icon. Stripped of his world championship belt for his refusal to fight in the Vietnam war, the legendary boxer later went on to win the heavyweight title a further two times, something that had never been done before. Charismatic both in and out of the ring, the serial womaniser was not only a gifted boxer but also a seamless self-promoter in his heyday, boasting: 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 would frequently bamboozle the press by answering their questions with quips more akin to a rapper than a sportsman: 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, hospitalised a brick; I’m so mean I make medicine sick.’

Born the eldest of six in Kentucky in 1942, Cassius Marcellus Clay Jnr was named after his father who, in turn, was named after the 19th-century abolitionist of the same name. The impetus to take up boxing came when an outraged 12-yearold Cassius had his bike stolen. He told the local police officer that he was going to find the thief and whup him’, to which the officer retorted he’d best learn to box first. Cassius trained hard under the tutelage of Chuck Bodak, winning several amateur titles, and by the age of 22 he’d won gold at the 1960 Olympics. His unique footwork and lightning fists earned him almost as much attention as his fast talk. Initially, the bragging young stallion proved unpopular with the press and sports fans alike. But many insiders attributed his trash talk to nerves and, despite his bravado, no one could deny his pugilistic skills. Muhammad Ali invented sequences and techniques that inspired and shaped everything boxing became. When questioned about his methods, he could also be surprisingly flippant, quipping: It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.’

It wasn’t long before his antiestablishment attitude began to strike a chord as the American civil rights movement gained pace. In early fights, Malcolm X could be seen in the Cassius camp and the men’s friendship played a large part in Cassius joining the Nation of Islam. In 1964, he announced his new faith, and name, to the world, saying: Cassius Clay is a name that white people gave to my slave master. Now that I am free, that I don’t belong anymore to anyone, that I’m not a slave anymore, I gave back their white name, and I chose a beautiful African one.’ But not everyone was delighted with Muhammad Ali. Sonji, his wife, couldn’t get to grips with the new customs, refusing to wear a headscarf or cover up in public. Eventually the pair split. The following year, Muhammad married Belinda Boyd, who was happy to convert, changing her name to Khalilah Ali.

As America went to war with Vietnam, the champion boxer found himself called to take up arms. He refused, saying: No, I am not going 10,000 miles to help murder, kill, and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slave masters over dark people the world over. This is the day and age when such evil injustice must come to an end.’ He was charged with draft evasion and his passport and boxing licence were revoked. It would be almost four years before he would box again and when he did, he suffered a devastating loss at the hands of his rival Joe Frazier. Muhammad pulled such crowds that his fights were named and promoted as if they were Hollywood blockbusters. The Rumble In The Jungle’ saw him reclaim the heavyweight title from George Foreman and the Thrilla In Manila’ saw him finally beat Joe Frazier. It will be a killer, and a chiller, and a thriller, when I get the gorilla in Manila,’ he teased.

During this time, the boxer started a long-term affair with model Veronica Porsche. The couple had a child together before Muhammad finally owned up to their secret relationship, divorced Khaliah and married his mistress, who was now pregnant with their second daughter. His roving eye saw the arrival of another two daughters, born as a result of affairs during his third marriage. The early ’80s saw a diminished hero refusing to retire. In a bid to retain his world title, Muhammad stepped into the ring with a reluctant Larry Holmes, who knocked him out in the 11th round. Not long after that, the veteran athlete was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, attributed mainly to the many head traumas he’d suffered in the ring. In 1986, the three times world champion married for a fourth and final time to Yolanda (Lonnie) Williams. The couple adopted a fivemonth-old baby boy, Asaad Amin.

Now 74, Muhammad was due to visit the I Am The Greatest tribute exhibition currently running at the O2 in London, but last week had to cancel because of health fears. Excitement surrounding his visit prompted a petition to be circulated, calling for an honorary knighthood, with Sir Bob Geldof among the 17,000-plus people signing it. Summing up the goodwill and respect felt for the sporting icon, Sir Bob said: Muhammad Ali is one of the great men of honour and God knows there’s few enough of those.’

tutelage of Chuck Bodak, winning several amateur titles, and by the age of 22 he’d won gold at the 1960 Olympics. His unique footwork and lightning fists earned him almost as much attention as his fast talk. Initially, the bragging young stallion proved unpopular with the press and sports fans alike. But many insiders attributed his trash talk to nerves and, despite his bravado, no one could deny his pugilistic skills. Muhammad Ali invented sequences and techniques that inspired and shaped everything boxing became. When questioned about his methods, he could also be surprisingly flippant, quipping: It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.’

It wasn’t long before his antiestablishment attitude began to strike a chord as the American civil rights movement gained pace. In early fights, Malcolm X could be seen in the Cassius camp and the men’s friendship played a large part in Cassius joining the Nation of Islam. In 1964, he announced his new faith, and name, to the world, saying: Cassius Clay is a name that white people gave to my slave master. Now that I am free, that I don’t belong anymore to anyone, that I’m not a slave anymore, I gave back their white name, and I chose a beautiful African one.’

But not everyone was delighted with Muhammad Ali. Sonji, his wife, couldn’t get to grips with the new customs, refusing to wear a headscarf or cover up in public. Eventually the pair split. The following year, Muhammad married Belinda Boyd, who was happy to convert, changing her name to Khalilah Ali. As America went to war with Vietnam, the champion boxer found himself called to take up arms. He refused, saying: No, I am not going 10,000 miles to help murder, kill, and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slave masters over dark people the world over. This is the day and age when such evil injustice must come to an end.’ He was charged with draft evasion and his passport and boxing licence were revoked. It would be almost four years before he would box again and when he did, he suffered a devastating loss at the hands of his rival Joe Frazier.

Muhammad pulled such crowds that his fights were named and promoted as if they were Hollywood blockbusters. The Rumble In The Jungle’ saw him reclaim the heavyweight title from George Foreman and the Thrilla In Manila’ saw him finally beat Joe Frazier. It will be a killer, and a chiller, and a thriller, when I get the gorilla in Manila,’ he teased. During this time, the boxer started a long-term affair with model Veronica Porsche. The couple had a child together before Muhammad finally owned up to their secret relationship, divorced Khaliah and married his mistress, who was now pregnant with their second daughter. His roving eye saw the arrival of another two daughters, born as a result of affairs during his third marriage. The early ’80s saw a diminished hero refusing to retire. In a bid to retain his world title, Muhammad stepped into the ring with a reluctant Larry Holmes, who knocked him out in the 11th round.

Not long after that, the veteran athlete was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, attributed mainly to the many head traumas he’d suffered in the ring. In 1986, the three times world champion married for a fourth and final time to Yolanda (Lonnie) Williams. The couple adopted a fivemonth-old baby boy, Asaad Amin. Now 74, Muhammad was due to visit the I Am The Greatest tribute exhibition currently running at the O2 in London, but last week had to cancel because of health fears. Excitement surrounding his visit prompted a petition to be circulated, calling for an honorary knighthood, with Sir Bob Geldof among the 17,000-plus people signing it. Summing up the goodwill and respect felt for the sporting icon, Sir Bob said: Muhammad Ali is one of the great men of honour and God knows there’s few enough of those.’

1942 Cassius Marcellus Clay Jnr is born in Louisville, Kentucky.

1954 Begins boxing after the theft of his bicycle.

1960 Wins the Light Heavyweight gold medal at the Olympics in Rome.

1964 Marries cocktail waitress Sonji Roi (right) a month after meeting her. Wins the World Heavyweight Championship. Joins the Nation of Islam, changing his name to Muhammad Ali.

1966 Divorces Sonji after her struggle to embrace certain Muslim customs.

1967 Marries Belinda Boyd, who converts to Islam after their wedding to become Khalilah Ali. He refuses to be conscripted by the US Army for the Vietnam war and is charged with draft evasion. His boxing licence is revoked and his passport seized.

1968 Daughter Maryum is born.

1970 Twin girls Jamillah and Rasheda are born. The state of Atlanta grants him a boxing licence and he returns for his first fight in almost four years.

1971 The uS Supreme Court overturns his draft evasion charges. Loses a fight against arch rival Joe Frazier.

1972 Son Muhammad Ali Jr is born.

1974 Reclaims World Heavyweight title, beating George Foreman in the Rumble In The Jungle’.

1975 Beats long-standing opponent Joe Frazier in the fight dubbed, the Thrilla In Manila’. Converts to Sunni Islam after a fall out with the Nation of Islam. Begins an affair with actress and model Veronica Porsche, resulting in the birth of Muhammad’s fourth daughter, Hana.

1977 Divorces Khalilah and marries Veronica. Daughter Laila Ali is born.

1978 Triumphs again as World Heavyweight, becoming the first boxer to win the belt three times.

1980 Loses to Larry Holmes, who knocks him out in the 11th round.

1981 Daughter Kiiursti is born in secret, the result of a 20-year on/ off affair with Barbara Mensah. Loses his final fight to Trevor Berbick and subsequently retires from boxing.

1984 Diagnosed with Parkinson’s, largely attributed to the head traumas sustained from boxing.

1986 Marries Yolanda (Lonnie) Williams and adopts five-monthold Asaad Amin.

1991 Publishes Muhammad Ali: His Life And Times.

2001 Actively promotes the biopic Ali, in which an Oscarnominated Will Smith portrays his rise to stardom.

2002 Travels to Afghanistan as a uN messenger of peace.

2012 Is a bearer of the Olympic flag at the opening ceremony for the Summer Games in London.

2016 The I Am The Greatest exhibition opens in London’s O2, celebrating the boxer.Muhammad Ali Biography – Childhood, Life Achievements & Timeline Bestcelebritystyle

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