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 achievements.
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 champion Ali.
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!
Author: Terrance Green
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.
Foreman's subsequent 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.