Muhammad Ali - Louisville Article

Muhammad Ali


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Published Sep 25, 2016
Updated Oct 17, 2016
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Muhammad Ali

by Kirsten SIlven

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, the boxer, philanthropist and social activist who came to be known worldwide as Muhammad Ali showed from an early age that he wasn’t about to back down from any fight – in or out of the boxing ring.

Muhammad Ali became an Olympic gold medalist in 1960 and won the world heavyweight boxing championship title in 1964. After he was suspended for refusing military service, Ali went on to reclaim the
heavyweight title twice more during the 1970’s and won now-legendary battles with Joe Frazier and George Foreman. In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and afterward devoted much of his life to philanthropy, which earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

Perhaps the most famous story you’ll hear around Louisville involving Muhammad Ali is the story about how he (may or may not have?) thrown his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River from the Second Street bridge out of frustration after being victimized by bigotry in his
segregated hometown even though he came home a champion. According to legend, Ali threw away the medal because he was refused service at a restaurant due to his skin color, but the story has become blurred by the lens of time and Ali himself even denied its validity. Regardless of how it happened, the medal does seem to have definitely been lost, because the International Olympic Committee issued him a replacement gold medal in Atlanta in 1996

Ali is also known for having referred to himself as simply “the greatest,” a nickname that has stuck with him over the years. In fact, Ali was never afraid to sing his own praises and was known for boasting about his skills before a fight, using color phrases like the now-infamous “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

After doing some spiritual searching, he decided to join the black Muslim group known as the Nation of Islam in 1964, eventually changing his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali and converting to orthodox Islam in the 1970’s. Throughout his life, Ali traveled to numerous countries to help those in need and in 1998 he was chosen to be a United Nations Messenger of Peace in recognition of his work in developing nations.

In 2005, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush and also opened the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville that same year. Today, this non-profit museum and cultural center is located in the city’s West Main district and stands as a testament to Ali’s life and the core principles that fueled his journey. Despite the progression of Parkinson’s and the onset of spinal stenosis, Ali remained active in public life until his death on June 3, 2016.
Muhammad Ali became an Olympic gold medalist
in 1960 and won the world heavyweight boxing
championship title in 1964. After he was suspended
for refusing military service, Ali went on to reclaim the
heavyweight title twice more during the 1970’s and
won now-legendary battles with Joe Frazier and George
Foreman. In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s
Disease and afterward devoted much of his life to
philanthropy, which earned him the Presidential Medal of
Freedom in 2005.
Perhaps the most famous story you’ll hear around
Louisville involving Muhammad Ali is the story about
how he (may or may not have?) thrown his Olympic gold
medal into the Ohio River from the Second Street bridge
out of frustration after being victimized by bigotry in his
segregated hometown even though he came home a
champion. According to legend, Ali threw away the medal
because he was refused service at a restaurant due to his
skin color, but the story has become blurred by the lens of
time and Ali himself even denied its validity. Regardless of
how it happened, the medal does seem to have definitely
been lost, because the International Olympic Committee
issued him a replacement gold medal in Atlanta in 1996

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