Muhammad Ali is a boxing icon. The man lived up to his nickname "The Greatest" not only with what he did inside of the boxing, but the change he made to society outside of the ring. Ali is a name that will live on in the boxing world for a lifetime.
As an amateur, Ali produced a stellar 59-5 record, and ended his amateur career at the pinnacle of amateur boxing. Ali represented USA in the 1960 Rome Olympics. He would go right through and win gold in the games. A story in Ali's 1975 autobiography states that Ali threw his gold medal into the Ohio river after he and a friend were refused service at a "whites-only" restaurant and fought with a white gang. The story was later disputed, and several of Ali's friends, including Bundini Brown and photographer Howard Bigham, denied it.
Ali would turn professional following the Olympics, and defeated Tunney Hunsaker in his debut with a six round decision. Ali's first world title came in his 20th fight, where he stopped Sonny Liston for the WBA and WBC titles, Liston retired citing a shoulder injury. The fight was the Ring Magazine Fight of the year for 1964. Ali instantly rematched Liston, and knocked Liston out in one round, which produced the iconic photo of Ali standing over Liston following the knockout.
Ali would go undefeated until his 32nd fight. Ali faced off with Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden. Ali would lose by unanimous decision following being dropped in the 15th round. Ali bounced back from this loss, and picked up the NABF title from Jimmy Ellis in his return fight. Ali would put together a further nine wins after Ellis before coming up short to Ken Norton in his 43rd bout, as Ali would be on the end of a split decision following a broken jaw in the fight.
Ali instantly avenged this loss by defeating Norton in an immediate rematch. Ali wasn't done with settling scores, as he rematched Frazier in his 46th fight, where he also avenged that loss as he defeated Frazier by unanimous decision. Ali would win his world titles back in his next fight as he would hand the fearsome George Foreman the first loss of his career with an eighth round knockout in the 'Rumble in the Jungle.'
Ali's 51st fight would be the infamous 'Thrilla in Manila' as he was set to settle the score once and for all with Joe Frazier. The fight was the 1975 Ring Magazine fight of the year as Ali won the decider between himself and Frazier.
Ali would pick up a further eight wins, including a rivalry decider with Ken Norton, before tasting defeat to Leon Spinks via split decision. Ali would get an immediate rematch with Spinks and avenge that loss as he picked up the win via unanimous decision. Ali announced his retirement following this bout.
Ali would return to the ring two years later as he had a chance to fight for the WBC title against Larry Holmes, but it would unfortunately be a losing effort. Ali had one last fight after this and came up short against Trevor Berbick and this would be his final fight in the boxing ring.
Outside the ring, Ali made incredible changes to society. Ali was publicly outspoken and unapologetic in his beliefs on race. He opened many doors for black athletes to be able to feel equal today, as he played a huge part in the Black Power Movement with his close relationships to Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael. Ali came under fire for being controversial at times, but always spoke his truth, most famously being quoted saying “I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize, but get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.”
Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1984, and as Ali was always fighting to make the world a better place, he set up the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The center was set up to raise awareness for this disease, whilst raising funds to support the millions of people affected by Parkinson's worldwide.
The name Ali lived on as Muhammad's daughter Laila would begin boxing in 1999, and had a career where she remained undefeated and culminated in world title glory, with her father watching on at ringside.
Ali's Grandson, Nico Ali Walsh, turned professional in 2021, and is making waves in the pro game as he sits at a 5-0 record currently as he looks to continue the legacy of The Greatest.
Ali's passing shocked the boxing world in 2016, as the world had lost a great boxer, and an even better man. Ali will go down as one of the most influential men to ever live and made a change to the world, whilst being the greatest inside the boxing ring, from his famous catchphrases, his illusive boxing style, and positive impact on society as a whole, Ali is greatly missed by all.