A Brief Biography of Mohammad Ali
When thinking of the Athlete of the Century lots
of great athletes come to mind. Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, Willie Mays, Jackie
Robinson, Jack Nicklaus, and Hank Aaron are among the names who belong in the
pantheon of sports immortals. However, only one athlete is a truly unanimous
selection. That individual is the self-proclaimed "Greatest of All Time.”
Muhammad Ali is the “athlete of the century,” based on his social and athletic
The heavyweight champion was not only the greatest
fighter to lace up the gloves; he was the most famous, flamboyant, arrogant,
and self-assured athlete to ever grace the sports world. He was good, and he
let the whole world know it. Born as Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942 in
Louisville, Kentucky, he was introduced to boxing by a police officer who
approached him because he was alleged to have stolen a bicycle. The officer
encouraged Clay to study “the manly art of self-defence.” The young man
accepted the challenge, and the rest is history.
Clay was undefeated as an amateur and won a gold
medal in the 1960 Olympics in Rome. He joined the professional ranks
immediately after the Olympics. He was young, confident, arrogant, handsome,
and he told everyone who would listen that he would soon be the youngest
heavyweight champion. His prediction came true on Feb 25, 1964, when he shocked
the world by defeating overwhelming favourite Sonny Liston. This was the
beginning of a string of predictions that would come true for the great
Two days later, he shocked the world again by
announcing that he had accepted the teachings of a Black separatist religion
known as the Nation of Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad
Ali. The Honourable Elijah Muhammad was the leader of the Nation of Islam at
the time. Ali’s spiritual mentor was the intellectual, outspoken, and
controversial Malcolm X, who was the Nation’s national spokesperson.
Most sportswriters refused to acknowledge his
adopted name, and continued to refer to him as Cassius Clay. This was a blatant
sign of disrespect toward Ali, but he continued to make predictions, remained
cocky and kept winning. Meanwhile, the legend of Ali continued to grow. On
April 28, 1967, he refused to fight in the Vietnam War because of his religious
beliefs. Once again, Ali drew heat from fellow Americans and government
officials for not fighting for his country. He was looked upon as a hero by
African-American and anti-war protesters. Ali stated that he had "no
quarrel with the Vietcong," and he would rather go to jail than fight in a
war he didn't believe in. He was stripped of his title and banned from the
boxing for four years.
During his exile he spoke at colleges, rallies,
and other public forums. He became a hero in the Black community for his commitment
to his convictions and for refusing to bow to authority. Four years after his
refusal to serve in the military, a judge overturned his conviction and he was
free to fight again. Ali came back stronger than ever. He still proclaimed to
“dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” During his “second” career he
fought historical wars against the best heavyweights. Ali beat “Smokin” Joe
Frazier, two out of three times in some of the most punishing fights in the
history of the heavyweight division.
He also conquered a young and powerful George
Foreman, who seemed unbeatable until he encountered Ali. As Ali would say, he
“shook up the world” by knocking out Foreman in Zaire to recapture his
heavyweight title. He would eventually lose his title to a young Leon Spinks,
but later defeated Spinks to recapture the title for an unprecedented third
time. Ali continued to fight long after his skills had diminished, but he will
always be remembered as boxing’s greatest champion. However, his great career
was overshadowed by his reputation as a humanitarian, and as a spokesperson and
role model for African-Americans. He was willing to speak out on issues such as
racism, even at a time when those pronouncements were unpopular.
He remained committed to Islam, even though he was
constantly attacked by the media. His message of Black pride and Black
resistance to White domination was on the cutting edge. He is undoubtedly the
most significant athlete of the twentieth century. Would an athlete such as
Michael Jordan sacrifice four years of a great career for his beliefs? Probably
not. That is why Ali is the Greatest!
A Brief Biography of George Foreman
George Edward Foreman was born in Marshall, Texas on January 10, 1949.
Once a rebellious teen, "Big George" found boxing as an outlet while
in the Job Corps. Foreman's successful amateur career included the 1968 National
AAU heavyweight championship and the heavyweight gold medal at the 1968 Olympic
Games. He turned pro in 1969. The hard-punching Foreman met heavyweight king
Joe Frazier on January 22, 1973 and dispatched the champion in two rounds. The
next year he lost the title to Muhammad Ali in an epic bout in Zaire called the
"Rumble in the Jungle." Foreman dropped from the public eye for years
and devoted himself to his religious ministry.
A decade later, Foreman embarked on one of the most improbable, yet
successful, comebacks in sports history. In the 1990s, he
returned to the ring transformed into a rotund, jovial fighter who somehow beat
Michael Moorer in 1994 to regain the heavyweight crown at age 45. He became the oldest man ever to hold the title.
self-mocking commercials for hamburgers and mufflers made him even more famous.
Foreman retired again after a 1997 loss to Shannon Briggs, but his fame was
intact: he made millions as a TV pitchman for a low-fat cooking gadget called
the George Foreman Grill. In February of 2004, Foreman announced that he
intended to return for one more fight, this time as a 55-year-old grandfather,
in honour of the 30th anniversary of his rumble with Ali.
Foreman has five
daughters and five sons and has named all of the sons George: George Jr.,
George III, George IV, George V, and George VI.