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10 Things You Might Not Know About Muhammad Ali

Last Updated: 16.05.22


Back in the golden days of boxing, when working on boxing bag stand and combo punches were still new training methods, a new name made itself known in the sport. When few fighters wore headgear for boxing and this sport was in full development, Cassius Clay, later to be known as Muhammad Ali, took everyone by surprise and eventually became an icon of this sport.

Here are some little known interesting facts about the American professional boxer that you may not know about.


A stolen bicycle started it all

In the month of October 1954, when he was only 12 years old, Cassius Marcellus Clay’s red and white Schwinn bike was stolen. After reporting the theft to police officer Joe Martin from Louisville Kentucky, Cassius promised to “whup” the culprit.

Seeing how determined the young boy was, and being a boxing instructor himself, police officer Joe Martin took Cassius under his own wing and suggested that the lad should first learn how to box. Around six weeks later, Clay has won his first match after a split decision by the judges.



The origin of his birth name

The famous boxer, just like his father, was named after a famous 19th-century politician, farmer, and anti-slavery fighter. This Kentucky planter inherited 40 slaves from his father. However, he set them all free. This emancipator was in charge of an anti-slavery newspaper and served as a minister to Russia while Abraham Lincoln was president.

Due to all these actions that were defying the Southern ideologies during those time, the politician Cassius Clay received death threats, was beaten, stabbed and even shot by his opponents. However, he managed to survive all that and lived a long life until the age of 92.


Name changes

Before the boxer was known as Muhammad Ali, he adopted another name. After becoming the new heavyweight champion, he confirmed that he had joined the Nation of Islam. He told reporters that from that moment he renounced his surname, referring to it as a slave name and wanted to be called “Cassius X”.

On the 6th of March 1964, he was bestowed the name we all know today, “Muhammad Ali”, by the Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.


Banned from boxing

In 1967, during the Vietnam War, Muhammad Ali refused to join the military forces to serve the US, primarily for religious reasons. As a result, he was arrested, his boxing license was suspended, and his title was stripped.

The boxer was convicted to five years in prison and fined with $10.000. In 1970, the New York Supreme Court decided that his boxing license should be reinstated and thus, in the October month of that year he returned to boxing and knocked out Jerry Quarry. The following year, Muhammad Ali’s conviction was overturned in a unanimous decision.   


A Broadway musical

During his few years of exile from boxing, Ali starred in the musical Buck White. Although the production closed only four nights later, the fighter’s brief performance received decent reviews. A New York Times reviewer claimed that Ali acted without embarrassment and moved with innate dignity.



The recorded album

Muhammad Ali was known as the poet of the boxing world at the time as he composed verses in which he taunted his opponents. In the year 1963 Columbia Records released an album called “I Am the Greatest”. On that album, Ali performed in front of an audience by reciting poetry with musical accompaniment.


Irish roots

Muhammad Ali’s grandfather, Abe Grady, was Irish and emigrated to the US to settle in Kentucky in the 1860s. After marrying a freed slave, they had a grandchild, who was none other than Ali’s mother, named Odessa Lee.

In the year 2009, the boxer visited his great-grandfather ancestral hometown. There, in Ennis, he met members of the clan O’Grady.


Fighting at 4 AM

In the year 1974, Ali fought George Foreman for a shot at the heavyweight title. In order to generate publicity for his country, Zaire’s president paid each fighter $5 million to fight before the sunrise, at 4 AM. This would have made it possible for Americans to watch the match live on their TVs.

The famous match was known as the “Rumble in the Jungle” and ended up with Ali knocking out Foreman in the 8th round.


The Olympic gold medal

At the age of 18, Ali went to Rome and took part in the 1960 Summer Olympic Games. He won a gold medal for the light heavyweight division. After returning home the boxer claimed to have thrown the gold medal into the Ohio River as a sign of protest against the racism he endured upon his return in his hometown.

Some people dispute this event and claim that, in fact, Ali lost the gold medal. In the 1996 Summer Olympics, where he was the one who lit the cauldron during the Opening Ceremony, he received another gold medal to replace the first one.



Famous gloves

When exactly 50 years had passed since Ali won his first heavyweight title, a buyer acquired the gloves the fighter wore when defeating Liston. That fight ended up with a technical KO in the seventh round. The victory brought Ali $630,000. The gloves he wore were sold for $836,000.



There are many things more or less known about the life of this three-time heavyweight champion of the world. However one of the most important things about him was that he eventually became through his actions a symbol for anti-war movements and an inspiration for people around the globe.

He suffered from Parkinson’s disease for more than 30 years and passed away in 2016.



Leave a comment


Jan Spring

May 4, 2019 at 5:11 pm

We owe Muhammad Ali a debt of gratitude for his courage and standing tall for his belief that the Vietnam Conflict/War was unconscionable, particularly for his brown and black brothers (before the draft leveled the odds of dying for all colors); his refusal to join the Army or flee the country caused him to be arrested, to be stripped of his title, and to lose his license to box…misunderstood as many who carve the Way and more than a boxer: a man of principle and a voice for millions.

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