Muhammad Ali is not dead.
While he may be dead in the sense that he is no longer living, his passing allows for us to realize that his beliefs and way he carried himself will live long past his life for years to come.
Ali was born Cassius Clay in 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. Clay picked up boxing in Louisville and built himself up as one of the better amateur boxers in the United States. Clay eventually went on to prove that he was the best amateur boxer in the world as he won the gold medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
However, when Clay returned home to Kentucky, he began to realize the inequality that African-Americans faced in America. Upset due to this, Clay famously threw his gold medal into the Ohio River after being refused to be served a dinner party.
Then came 1964 and the making of Muhammad Ali. On February 25, 1964, Clay beat the heavyweight champion of the world, Sonny Liston. The shocking upset ushered in a new era of boxing and brought the brash, outspoken Clay into the national spotlight, a spotlight that Clay relished.
The day after the fight, Clay officially announced his allegiance to the Malcolm X-led Nation of Islam and officially changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
Ali broke the mold of the African-American athlete during this era as he did not conform to what White America expected black athletes to act. Ali used his media fame to openly challenge the many racial prejudices that were present in 1960s America. However, it was his protest of the Vietnam War that was his most famous challenging of American beliefs.
Ali refused to go to Vietnam after he was drafted in 1967 famously saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” Eventually, Ali was convicted of draft evasion and sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000, stripped of his heavyweight championship and banned from boxing for three years.
Eventually, Ali appealed his sentence and was able to return to boxing in 1970 going on to beat Jerry Quarry in his return to boxing. Throughout the 1970s, Ali is well-known for the famous trilogy of fights against Joe Frazier. “The Fight of the Century,” “The Rumble in the Jungle” and “The Thrilla in Manila,” were some of the biggest sporting events of the century with Ali winning the final two to reclaim the heavyweight championship of the world.
However, as with all athletes, Father Time caught up to Ali as he lost a decisive bout to Larry Holmes in 1980 and officially retired from boxing in 1981.
After boxing, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1984, the disease that ironically took the famous voice from the champ. He continued large charitable efforts his final years, using his larger-than-life persona around the world to raise awareness for various causes. Ali was also the highlight of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, receiving a second gold medal for the only he threw in the Ohio River and lighting the torch to begin the games.
In the end, Muhammad Ali leaves this Earth as one of the most outspoken, dominant athletes of his time. The Sportsman of the Century according to Sports Illustrated and the BBC, Ali’s influence goes much farther than his fighting in the ring. No matter what he did, Ali always proved that he was, is and forever will be “The Greatest.”