Muhammad Ali, the eloquent, colorful, controversial and brilliant three-time heavyweight boxing champion has passed away. Ali, well known for his dazzling boxing skills, had a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, was taken to a Phoenix area hospital earlier this week where he was being treated for a respiratory issue.
Ali, (January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016) originally known as Cassius Clay, began training at 12 years old. At the age of 22, he won the world heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston in a stunning upset in 1964. Shortly after that, Ali joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name. He converted to Sunni Islam in 1975, and then to Sufism in 2005.
In 1967, three years after winning the heavyweight title, Ali refused to be conscripted into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War. He was eventually arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges and stripped of his boxing title. He did not fight again for nearly four years—losing a time of peak performance in an athlete’s career. Ali’s appeal worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court where, in 1971, his conviction was overturned. Ali’s actions as a conscientious objector to the war made him an icon for the larger counterculture generation.
Ali remains the only three-time lineal world heavyweight champion; he won the title in 1964, 1974, and 1978. Between February 25, 1964 and September 19, 1964 Muhammad Ali reigned as the undisputed heavyweight boxing champion.
Nicknamed “The Greatest”, Ali was involved in several historic boxing matches. Notable among these were the first Liston fight, three with rival Joe Frazier, and “The Rumble in the Jungle” with George Foreman, in which he regained titles he had been stripped of seven years earlier.