He was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.. His conscience and beliefs led him to convert to Islam in 1964 and subsequently Sunni Islam in 1975, eventually to Sufism.
When he was 12-years-old, his bicycle was stolen. He was so angry he found a policeman, Louisville’s finest – Joe Martin – who he told he was going to “whup” whoever took his bike. Joe, a wise man, who set young Cassius on his important path, told him he should learn to box first and by chance was a trainer of young boxers.
Joe was impressed with his remarkable work ethic and determination. Combined with an innate talent, this made him eventually unbeatable. His first fight earned him $4.
In 1960 he almost didn’t go to the Olympics because of his fear of flying. But he went to an Army-Navy store, bought a parachute and wore it on the flight. He won the Light Heavyweight Gold Medal less than 6 years after his bike was stolen.
After winning the Gold Medal, he returned to a U.S. that refused him service at a “whites-only” restaurant. Apparently Bed Bath and Beyond had not yet entered the retail marketplace with a wider choice of sheet color. It was still just the KKK lily-white sheet only.
He went pro. His career is legend. And highly controversial. He did not take crap off of anybody. Not even Howard Cosell, with whom he had a contentious relationship. “We just don’t get along,” he said.
He was soft-spoken, poetic (“float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”). He protested the Viet Nam war and was first convicted in 1967. In 1971, the Supreme Court reversed the conviction. He said “No, I am not going 10,000 miles to help murder, kill, and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slave masters over dark people the world over. This is the day and age when such evil injustice must come to an end,” and “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?” Why, indeed, hon.
At the time, finely dressed white folks expressed shock and disapproval over such goings on. But, hons, in retrospect, the fellow had a point there, I’d say. Man was ahead of his time.
He had a glorious career. He was a role model for so many young people. He overcame prejudice and bigotry with hard work and honest sweat.
But that, apparently, wasn’t enough.
It is assumed that the severe and repeated head trauma he suffered in his line of work is what gave him Parkinson’s syndrome. My own father suffered this as well. He and Ali have one thing in common. They fought it like the dog it is. He has continued his philanthropic endeavors and travels the world trying to help with a multitude of earthly ills.
Nope, he’s not perfect. He’s had four wives and various girlfriends and he has a posse of children.
But the man does not stop when it comes to standing up to what he believes and working for what will help the planet.
And he’s very tall and good-looking to boot! And he has a really well designed website, where you can link to following his quotes on Twitter!