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Muhammad Ali Biography

Sports | 12-14 yrs | Interactive, Reading Pod

Who is Muhammad Ali?

Muhammad Ali was one of the most celebrated sportsperson of the 20th century. He is the first and only three time lineal World Heavyweight Champion.

Muhammad Ali was born as Cassius Clay and began training as a boxer at 12 years old. In a career that spanned almost 3 decades, Ali became one of the ‘Greatest’. His last fight was on December 11, 1981, with Trevor Berbick. He was a month short of his 40th birthday.

In 1984, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, sustained due to injuries to his head. He died on June 3rd, 2016, after several years as a philanthropist and a social activist. He won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

Childhood and Early Life

Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr, as Ali at birth was known as, was born on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. He had a sister and four brothers. He was named after his father Cassius Marcellus Clay, who was named after a Republican Kentucky politician. His father was a billboard painter and his mother Odessa O’Grady Clay was a domestic helper. They were descendents of African slaves and some mix of Irish and English ancestry.

Clay grew up among racial discrimination and racial segregation.

On one occasion he was upset about his bicycle being stolen, and was guided to take up boxing training, by a Louisville police officer, Joe E Martin.

Later Life and Career

Clay made his boxing debut in 1954, against local amateur boxer Ronnie O’Keefe. He went on to win six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union national title and the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics, in Rome. He lost the 1960 Gold medal and it was replaced when he lit the torch, to open the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Marriage and Children

Muhammad Ali was married four times and had seven daughters and two sons.

Muhammad Ali’s Boxing Record

Muhammad Ali’s boxing career boasts 56 wins, 5 losses and 37 knockouts. He won the Heavyweight Championship 3 times between 1964 to 1979, which made him the title of ‘The Greatest’. He holds this title along with two others, Evander Holyfield (USA) and Lennox Lewis (UK)

  • 1964 Defeated Sonny Liston
  • 1974 Defeated George Foreman
  • 1978 Defeated Leon Spinks


Muhammad Ali was involved in several causes he felt close to. He worked tirelessly for racial equality for African Americans and also worked on several causes to promote peace and equality globally, including working towards national debt clearance of poverty stricken countries.

Awards and Achievements

He was honoured with a number of titles including, ‘the Greatest’, ‘Fighter of the Year’, ‘Sportsman of the Year’, ‘Sportsman of the Century’ and Sports Personality of the Century.

He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom(2005) and Presidential Citizens Medal(2009) for his contributions.

He was inducted in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He is even honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

5 Interesting facts about Muhammad Ali

  1. Ali was banned from boxing for 3 years due to his stance on the war in Vietnam.
  2. Ali had starred in a Broadway musical, recorded a spoken verse album, wrote poetry.
  3. Ali converted to Islam after his fight with Sonny Liston, in 1964.
  4. Muhammad Ali wrote two books, I am the Greatest and The Soul of a Butterfly

5 Super inspiring Muhammad Ali quotes

  1. If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.
  2. The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.
  3. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
  4. It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.
  5. It’s not bragging if you can back it up.

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