Muhammad Ali: The Battles In And Out Of The Ring

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As pugilism was starting to thrive and being sought as an entertaining form of fighting in the mid 1960s to early 1970s , many boxers saw their peek in the sport, gaining much attention through news and their championships. Not only were there names widely renowned, but many fought to make a statement. One of those boxers was Muhammad Ali, a young black African-American boy who was dominating the heavyweight boxing scene and only getting bigger. Winning heavyweight titles after titles, his name was known around the globe.

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Background

Throughout his miraculous life, Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Mascellus Clay Jr. is arguably one of boxing’s greatest pugilists. From being a leader in the Civil Rights movement to advocating for black rights, he overcame many obstacles and he did so in and out of the ring ranging from his childhood to his prime to his regular life. Born January 14, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky, Muhammad Ali’s interest in the sport of boxing started when he was 12 years old. His bike was stolen and when he offered his complaint to policeman Joe Martin, Ali said he will “whup” the kid who stole his bike. Martin, acknowledging his comments, told him to start learning how to box at a local gym when it came time to beat whoever stole his bike. Six weeks later, Muhammad Ali would fight his first amateur boxing match and win. Many, who spectated the match, said they saw a vision in Ali’s eyes showing a deep passion for the sport of boxing. Many years later, Muhammad Ali would be a renowned name around the world and his name would be published everywhere.

Achievements

Before Muhammad Ali retired from boxing in 1981, he didn’t do so without his accolade of achievements. Muhammad Ali won achievements in and out of the ring, from heavyweight titles to coveted honors a world activist or popular figure would only receive. On February 5th, 1964, after having 19 fights won, 15 coming by knockout, Ali received his first professional heavyweight title shot against former reigning heavyweight champion Sonny Liston, in which he came out victorious. In 1959, Muhammad Ali won both the National Golden Gloves Light Heavyweight Championship and the Nationl Amateur Athletic Union Championship, The following year, in 1960, won 2 awards which were the National Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship and a coveted gold medal in the light heavyweight boxing unification at the Rome Olympics and throughout 1964 through 1967, Muhammad Ali would reign and terrorize other heavyweights as a feared boxing champion. A few years later in 1970 and 1974, Muhammad Ali won the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. award and the Sportsman of the Year, assigned by sports magazine Sports Illustrated and the Fighter of the Year by Boxing Writers Association and throughout 1974 through 1979, Muhammad Ali still reigned as the heavyweight bxoing champion. In 1979, Muhammad Ali received a Honorary Doctorate for Humane Letters at Texas Southern University and had a street named after him in Louisville, Kentucky. Four years after retirement in 1985, Muhammad Ali was recognized for his long service and two years later in 1987, Muhammad Aliwas inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Nine years later, which would be recognized as an iconic scene for years to come Muhamad Ali would receive the honor of lighting the olympic torch in Atlanta, Georgia. The following year, in 1997, Muhammad Ali would receive prestigious awards like the Arthur Ashe Award for Courgae, given to him by the sports coverage meda ESPN and he would also receive the Essence Living Legend Award.

Life In and Out of the Ring

Many events shaped Muhammad Ali’s life from his boxing career inside the ring to his life outside the ring as an activist. One event, however, would shape Ali’s entire life and that was his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War and the racism he endured his whole life. In the April of 1967, Muhammad Ali was drafted into the Vietnam War but would refuse to serve due to his religious background and beliefs. His decision did not come without many controversies and backlashes. Many looked down upon Ali considering he was one of the biggest figures around the world and after his decision, he was stripped of both his world titles and his boxing license. The Supreme Court would lter sentence Muhammad Ali to 5 years in prison in June of 1967 but his conviction would later be overturned that same year. Regarding his decisions to that situation, he broke another big barrier. He broke the barrier of black resistance towards white domination. Ali had faced many racism and discrimination towards his skin color, both prior and after his decision to refuse to serve in the Vietnam War. Serving as hope and a voice for the black race, he spoke against the injustices the black race suffered. During the civil rights movement, he was a global icon and was recognized by many. Despite this being his main barrier, Ali overcame other barriers such as segregation and Islamophobia in the United States following the 9/11 attacks considering he was an Islamic man himself.

Fighting Legal and Racial Barriers

On April 28, 1967, while the United States was at war in Vietnam, Ali refused to be inducted and drafted into the armed forces, specifically the army, saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” Muhammad Ali cited religious reasons as to wy he couldn’t fight in the Vietnam War consider he was a part of the Islamic religion. On June 20, 1967, Ali was convicted on a charge of draft evasion and was sentenced to five years in prison. He was also fined $10,000 and was banned from the sport of boxing for 3 years. Muhammad Ali later stated in an interview, “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America,” he had explained two years earlier. “And shoot them for what? They never called me n*gger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. … Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail” (The Washington Post). Muhammad Ali would remain out of prison as his case was to be appealed and and Ali would return to the ring on October 26, 1970, facing Jerry Quarry in Atlanta, in which he would knock him out in the third round. On March 8, 1971, Muhammad Ali would also fight Joe Frazier in what was billed “Fight of the Century”. Muhammad Ali lost that bxoing match after 15 rounds and this would result in the first loss of his professional boxing career. On June 28 of that same year, the United States Supreme Court overturned his conviction for refusing to serve in the draft. This case would go down in the books known as the Clay V. vs Supreme Court, making a statement in history.

Outside his legal battles, Muhammad Ali faced racial prejudice for his skin color as he himself was a black muslim. Ali advocated against racism during the Civil rights movement and sought for better treatment for the black African-American people who lived in America. He was black nationalist who worked alongside Malcom X and was a part of the Black Power Group. With the Nation of Islam, Ali explained how his name Muhammad Ali came to be and how rejected the name Clay and explained how “Cassius Clay is a name that white people gave to my slave master. Now that I’m free, that I don’t belong to anyone, that I’m not a slave anymore, I gave back their white name, and I chose a beautiful African one” (Unknown). Muhammad Ali fought hard against racism and had deep wish of it terminating forever.

Conclusion

Muhammad Ali lived a life of great battles, both in and out of the ring. He lived a controversial life regarding all his decisions as a professional boxer and those he made during his evasion of the armed forces draft. Despite his controversies, he also advocated for a fight against racism as he was black muslim who only wanted better treatment his own skin color, which has been fought for centurie. Ali is unquestionably one of the best boxers in history, not simply because of his achievements in and out of the ring, but because he brought the fight against racism and war into professional sports and throughout his lifetime. Muhammad Ali changed boxing in American and international history. His dominant reign in boxing had more to do than just the sport of boxing but also with the advancement of the civil rights movement and his racial fight.

History has shown Muhammad Ali was more than an athlete but also a globally respected icon. 

16 December 2021

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