12 things you might not have known about legendary boxer Muhammad Ali

12 things you might not have known about legendary boxer Muhammad Ali

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Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston in 1965.
Photo: AP

Muhammad Ali was a three-time world heavyweight champion and one of the greatest athletes and sportspersons to ever live. His death last Friday, June 3, in Phoenix, Arizona was a great loss felt all around the world. Here are some facts you may not have known about "The Greatest".


1. Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Clay. He changed it to Muhammad Ali after converting to and joining the Nation of Islam, becoming a Muslim. He then converted from the Nation of Islam to the more mainstream Sunni Islam in 1975, and remained a Muslim for the rest of his life.

2. At 12 years old, Ali's brand new bike was stolen from him. The police officer in charge of his case suggested Ali learn how to fight before going after the thieves, and that's when Ali began to learn boxing.

3. The champion athlete graduated high school 376th out of 391 students.

4. After returning home with the gold medal in the Light Heavyweight catagory in boxing at the 1960 Rome Olympics, many restuarants in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky still refused him service due to his race. It has been said he threw the medal into the nearby Ohio River after one such incident, although the story has been disputed. Ali was later issued a replacement during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where he lit the game starting torch.

Ali during the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in 1996.
Photo: AP

5. During the Vietnam War, Ali refused conscription into the United States military. For this, his championship title was stripped from him and he was unable to box for three years, between 1967-1970. It wasn't until he was granted conscientious objector status in a court decision by the US Supreme court that he was able to box again.

6. Ali considered the American civil rights activist Malcolm X to be his mentor, but would split from him after Malcolm denounced the Nation of Islam that Ali was a part of. Ali considered the split as one of the greatest regrets of his life.

7. Ali’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is not placed in the ground, but mounted on a wall of the Dolby Theater, which is a requestion from Ali himself to prevent people walking on his name. “I bear the name of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad, and it is impossible that I allow people to trample over his name,” he said.

8. The heavyweight champ vowed to fulfill all autograph requests after allegedly being refused an autograph by one of his idols, boxing champion Sugar Ray Robinson, when he was a child.

9. He pioneered the boxing technique ‘Rope-a-dope’ in which one defends against punches until the opponent tires, and then counterattacks.

10. Ali’s last fight before his retirement was in 1980, and he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease shortly after.

11. By the end of his professional career, he'd collected 56 wins and five losses. In his amateur career before that, he had a record of 100 wins and five losses.

12. Ali’s eighth child and youngest daughter, Laila Ali who was born in 1977, was also a boxer and her last fight was in February, 2007. She retired with a career record of 24 wins, no draws and no losses.

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