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 1963. In 1964, he became heavyweight champion of the world and, that same year, after becoming a member of the Nation of Islam, adopted his new name, 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 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 56 wins, 5 losses, and 37 knockouts. Later in the 1980s, after publicly announcing that he had Parkinson's disease, he created the Muhammad Ali Parkinson's Center in Phoenix, Arizona. He was honored at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, when he was selected to light the Olympic torch. 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's Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. His six core principles, now promoted at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, are confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect, and spirituality. Muhammad Ali died in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2016.

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Last modified: 28 August 2019