Muhammad Ali – His Greatest Achievement
As we know it’s Muhammad Ali’s 73rd birthday this Saturday, he remains to be one of the most recognisable and iconic individuals of our time. Although age and illness have worn his current self, his legacy remains to touch the hearts of money, as the greatest sportsman that ever lived. I think it can only be right to celebrate the very moments that have glorified the status of this man into a living legend. He remains the only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Champion in history, winning the title in 1964, 1974 and again in 1978 at the age of 36. He antics were well known outside the ring as well as inside, he controlled most press conferences and interviews with a loud, provocative and outlandish persona which made his pre-fight discussions always entertaining.
#5 The 1960 Rome Olympics
This was what initiated Muhammad Ali’s professional boxing career, or back then he was a very young 18 year old Cassius Clay who succeeded as an amateur boxer but thought he’d try his hand at the Olympics in the light-heavyweight division. The final bout for gold was an aggressive trade of punches from Ali and his opponent, Zbigniew Pietrzykowski from Poland. It illustrated his calculated skill as a boxer and his ability to outshine and outpace his opponents which he would continue to develop on to create majestic fighting in the ring such as his fight against Cleveland ‘Big Cat’ Williams in 1966, a fight which I highly suggest you watch as I believe it, among many, to be Ali’s finest performance. I have added both links to fights below, credit goes to ”joshmar11” for both clips.
YouTube Clip URL of Muhammad Ali vs. Zbigniew Pietryzkowski, Rome, 1960 (Not my Property) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8eqAve3sZw
YouTube Clip URL of Muhammad Ali vs. Cleveland Williams, 1966 (Not my Property) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJUzl0aFHZw
#4 ”I shook up the World”
In 1964, a young Muhammad Ali (back then he was known as Cassius Clay), known as the ‘Louisville Lip’ for his pre-bout talks with the press, was a top contender and ready to face off against the ‘Big Bear,’ Sonny Liston. Sonny Liston was considered unbeatable in his current state and Ali wasn’t considered to be a real contender. Liston had previously beaten Floyd Patterson and Cleveland Williams, two top fighters and Liston’s intimidating presence left many contenders reluctant to face him in the ring. Liston was also a mysterious figure, not much was or still is known about who Liston really was, mystery surrounds when he was born, whether he was associated with underworld figures or how he actually died in 1970. We may produce a later article on the subject of Liston and this controversial bout in more detail if requested.
When the two squared up in the ring, many spectators were surprised to see Muhammad Ali was at least two inches taller than the so called ‘Big Bear.’ The fight seemed to be one sided during the first few rounds as Ali’s much superior speed and technique meant he was an almost illusive target to Liston, and Liston could not land a solid punch while Ali was fighting back with flurries of Jabs and the odd right hook. Much controversy surrounded round five as you will see in the clip of the fight, Ali is noticeably experiencing problems with his eye. Many speculate that the substance used on Liston’s cut was irritable to Muhammad Ali and therefore the contender had trouble seeing. Regarding the fight, detail has to be restrained to limit the size of this article.
In the sixth round, Ali began to regain his sight and was all over Liston, hitting him with a series of punches and flurries leaving Liston staggering and bruised. As the bell sounded for the seventh round, Ali got up for the round, however Liston refused to leave his corner and Ali with his arms raised and a jig which later became known as the ‘Ali Shuffle’ won by TKO. Muhammad Ali immediately ran to the ropes amidst the commotion in the ring, knowing he had made history , he repeatedly yelled ”I’m the Greatest” and ”I Shook up the World.” Muhammad Ali had won the Heavyweight Championship at the tender age of 22, it began his fruitful career as world champion, frequently becoming the centre of attention for the media and causing his usual controversial while harnessing and perfecting his skills as heavyweight boxer. Below is a link to the fight, credit goes to ”kumite27” for the upload.
YouTube Clip URL of Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston, 1964 (Not my Property) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4IKMX-5JLk
#3 The 1996 Atlanta Olympics
A moment which brought many tears and warmed the hearts of many that witnessed the spectacle of this legend lighting the torch that would signal the beginning of the 1996 Olympics in the city of Atlanta in the United States. This remarkable scene saw the Olympics Torch passed up to Ali, noticeably inflicted by Parkinson’s syndrome lighting the Olympic flame. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome in 1984, it left Ali struggling to speak, since it gave him vocal stutters and trembling hands, common symptoms with those affected my Parkinson’s. Concerns were brought up if Ali was able to light the Olympic flame, clips of the event showed Ali concentrating to control his movements to steady the torch onto the flint. However, he managed it and it was ceremonial with many basking at a man who had inspired and opened up the minds and hearts of many.
Ali also returned during the 1996 Olympics for a presentation, he was presented with a replica of his gold medal that he won in Rome in 1960. Many rumours came about regarding the whereabouts of his original gold medal but I’m not interested in speculating. The presentation during half time of a basketball match between the U.S. and Yugoslavia, with both teams supporting and congratulating him, it was probably weird for Ali to be the short one among them. The significance of this was the sheer emotional felt by everyone who saw, the spirit shown among the spectators, the reception and support he received was tremendous and was momentous in initiating the final Olympics of the 20th century.
#2 The Rumble in the Jungle
Probably the most famous historic bout to ever be fought, the significance of the bout is its setting, an ageing 32 year old Muhammad Ali would face up against the seemingly impenetrable 25 year old world heavyweight champion, George Foreman. Foreman had previously destroyed Joe Frazier in a match billed ”the Sunshine Showdown” on 22 January, 1973. It was a match up of both undefeated individuals, the fight however was over in the second round, George Foreman dominated the fight against the only man up to this point to defeat Ali (see Fight of the Century 1971).George Foreman also dominated the match up against Ken Norton, real contender who adopted an unusual unorthodox stance in his fights, but even Foreman threw this technique into dust after winning the bout in two rounds. Therefore, before the fight, the odds were up against Muhammad Ali, the setting of the bout was quite strange, set in the heartland of Africa in the state of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo).
The fight itself was widely publicised, it was assumed that it would be a Foreman walkover, known for destroying Frazier and Norton, he was a young powerful boxer, largely feared for his punching power and sheer physical dominance that was widely assumed to be too much for Muhammad Ali. The fight however was fought back and forth in the first two rounds, and in the third round, Muhammad Ali began to incorporate his famous ”rope-a-dope” tactic, Ali would cover up and the technique was used so the ropes would absorb the brunt of the punches. Due to the large number of punches thrown, Foreman’s energy and strength was sapped, and Ali was beginning to fight back with sharp jabs. In the 8th round Ali returned fire with several jabs, knocking George Foreman to the canvas, Foreman did get up during the end of the count but the fight was stopped, and Ali would lift the heavyweight title once again.
The significance of the fight showed the heart of Muhammad Ali, his ability to take a punch and his tactical genius, in and outside the ring. he’d been in a position like this before against Sonny Liston and beat the odds once again. The victory illustrated the technical prowess of Muhammad Ali’s abilities and showed to the world he may be ageing, but he was still the greatest. Below is a YouTube link to the fight, credit goes to ”Levi Johansen” for the upload.
YouTube Clip URL of Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman, Zaire, 1974 (Not my Property) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55AasOJZzDE
#1 Taking the Fight to the U.S. Government
Probably Muhammad Ali’s greatest achievement, or at least his most iconic moment was his involvement, if not indirect involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1967, Ali refused to be conscripted into the U.S. military, he claimed his religious beliefs (converted to Islam in 1964) and his opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War. Ali’s refusal got him arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges and he was stripped of his boxing title, leaving it vacant. This meant he did not fight for nearly four years, four years of peak performance as he was steadily improving, probably at the most unfortunate time of his career as peak performance usually occurs in mid to late 20s. Ali’s appeal and protests eventually worked its way up to the Supreme Court who would decide the fate of athlete, his conviction and charges were eventually dropped, Ali stood as a conscientious objector to the draft and won on account of the Court could not see why they would deny a conscientious objector. His position of protest and his success made Muhammad Ali an icon for the larger a counter-culture generation, a generation that would inspire protests throughout the world and events such as Woodstock. Following this, Ali was viewed as hero by some and vilified by many, even some individuals and commentators would still refer to him as ‘Cassius Clay,’ which was a sign of disrespect.
The significance of Muhammad Ali’s achievements, although he was vilified by many at the time, throughout the 1970s until the Present day, many view Ali as an icon, someone who fought his opponents in the ring as well as outside the ring. He brought colour to the dark days of boxing and was a major factor in the Golden Age of boxing, where every fight Ali fought was as entertaining as the last. His antics outside the ring before fights also provided entertainment and thrived on the attention and limelight, producing raps and as well as winning most of his fights, he would successfully predict the round which his opponent would fall, no mean feet. The reason we produced this article is because I was personally moved by Ali as an athlete as well as a symbol of hope and freedom in a time when conflicting beliefs were many and the world was on high alert.
As one of our first articles, this article will experience changes and developments throughout its life, maybe after further requests depending on the interest it receives and when we continue to develop our site the article will experience further developments and materials relating. Thorough research and speculation may be included as well as more in-depth looks on Muhammad Ali’s career.