Muhammad Ali, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.

Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., is the birth name of world champion boxer Muhammad Ali (1942–2016). In 1960, he won the Olympic gold medal for boxing as a light heavyweight at the Rome games and turned pro in October of that same year when he fought Tunney Hunsaker and when he signed his first contract with the managing group Louisville Sponsoring Group. In 1964, he became heavyweight champion of the world and, after winning that title, announced his conversion to the Nation of Islam. He later announced the adoption of his new name, given to him by Elijah Muhammad, telling the press, “From now on my name is Muhammad Ali. Don’t call me by my slave name. Cassius Clay was a slave name.” Also during the 1960s, his opposition as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War resulted in a conviction for violating the Selective Service laws, a conviction that ultimately was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1974, he was named the Associated Press Athlete of the Year and, in 1978, became the first person to win the world heavyweight boxing championship three times. When he left boxing in 1981, he had accrued fifty-six wins, five losses, and thirty-seven knockouts. Later in the 1980s, after publicly announcing that he had Parkinson's disease, he created the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix, Arizona. He was honored at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, when he carried the torch and lit the Olympic cauldron. His appearance at these games was significant, because it was the first time he revealed his Parkinson's on the world stage.

In addition to winning in the boxing arena, Muhammad Ali won other awards: the United Nations Messenger of Peace, the Amnesty International Lifetime Achievement Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Century, the BBC Sports Personality of the Century, and the GQ Athlete of the Century. In 1990 he was in the inaugural class of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. In 2015, Sports Illustrated magazine renamed its annual Sportsman Legacy Award the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. Muhammad's legacy is preserved at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, which promotes his six core principles: Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Giving, Respect, and Spirituality. Muhammad Ali died in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2016.

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Last modified: 7 February 2020