I have a confession to make. If you’ve been following our efforts here on INFOtainment News, you’ll know that this, Black History Month Spotlight, is a new series for us. We’ve done the extremely popular Personality Profile series and had great success from a readership and sharing perspective. But this is different. Not only do I feel a personal obligation to do my part for Black History Month, but I also feel obligated due to one of the journalistic creeds we have at HicksNewMedia and that is to always strive to provide timely, relevant and accurate content.
Why the soapbox? As I was trying to determine who to choose for the next in the Black History Month Spotlight – I was watching 30 for 30 on ESPN – the episode was about Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes. My heart seriously began to ache when I saw the background footage and how dramatically, quickly and how needlessly Muhammad Ali began loosing his mental state.
I want to remember him for the philanthropist and champion that his was is. That’s why our Black History Month – Day 9 Spotlight is: Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.; January 17, 1942) is a former American boxer and three-time World Heavyweight Champion, who is widely considered one of the greatest heavyweight championship boxers. As an amateur, he won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. After turning professional, he went on to become the first boxer to win the lineal heavyweight championship three times.
Originally known as Cassius Clay, Ali changed his name after joining the Nation of Islam in 1964, subsequently converting to Islam in 1975 and more recently to Sufism. In 1967, Ali refused to be conscripted into the U.S. military, based on his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. He was arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges, stripped of his boxing title, and his boxing license was suspended. He was not imprisoned, but did not fight again for nearly four years while his appeal worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was successful.
Nicknamed “The Greatest”, Ali was involved in several historic boxing matches. Notable among these are three with rival Joe Frazier and one with George Foreman, whom he beat by knockout to win the world heavyweight title for the second time. He suffered only five losses (four decisions and one TKO by retirement from the bout) with no draws in his career, while amassing 57 wins (39 knockouts and 18 decisions). Ali was well known for his unorthodox fighting style, which he described as “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”, and employing techniques such as the rope-a-dope. He was also known for his pre-match hype, where he would “trash talk” opponents on television and in person some time before the match, often with rhymes. These personality quips and idioms, along with an unorthodox fighting technique, made him a cultural icon.
Muhammad Ali defeated every top heavyweight in his era, which has been called the golden age of heavyweight boxing. Ali was named “Fighter of the Year” by Ring Magazine more times than any other fighter, and was involved in more Ring Magazine “Fight of the Year” bouts than any other fighter. He is an inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and holds wins over seven other Hall of Fame inductees. He is also one of only three boxers to be named “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated.
In 1978, three years before Ali’s permanent retirement, the Board of Aldermen in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky voted 6–5 to rename Walnut Street to Muhammad Ali Boulevard. This was controversial at the time, as within a week 12 of the 70 street signs were stolen. Earlier that year, a committee of the Jefferson County Public Schools considered renaming Central High School in his honor, but the motion failed to pass.
In 1993, the Associated Press reported that Ali was tied with Babe Ruth as the most recognized athlete, out of over 800 dead or alive athletes, in America. The study, conducted by Nye Lavalle’s Sports Marketing Group, found that over 97% of Americans, over 12-years of age, identified both Ali and Ruth.
He was the recipient of the 1997 Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
In 1999, Ali was crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC.
Countless other awards and recognitions have been presented to Ali pre/during/post his retirement from boxing. Two in particular were his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony on November 9, 2005, and the “Otto Hahn Peace Medal in Gold” of the United Nations Association of Germany (DGVN) in Berlin for his work with the US civil rights movement and the United Nations.
On November 19, 2005 (Ali’s 19th wedding anniversary), the $60 million non-profit Muhammad Ali Center opened in downtown Louisville. In addition to displaying his boxing memorabilia, the center focuses on core themes of peace, social responsibility, respect, and personal growth.
According to the Ali Center website, “Since he retired from boxing, Ali has devoted himself to humanitarian endeavors around the globe. He is a devout Muslim, and travels the world over, lending his name and presence to hunger and poverty relief, supporting education efforts of all kinds, promoting adoption and encouraging people to respect and better understand one another. It is estimated that he has helped to provide more than 22 million meals to feed the hungry. Ali travels, on average, more than 200 days per year.”
The Greatest fight of all time – The Rumble in the Jungle:
For much more on this international icon – see the official Ali website here where you’ll find video, quotes, photos and all news surrounding Muhammad Ali and his life’s work.