Although he was born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942, Muhammad Ali changed his name in 1964 when he converted to Islam. In fact, it was Malcolm X who gave Ali his new name มวยสากล after meeting with the young man on March 6, 1964. Due to these beliefs, he refused to be inducted into the U.S. military since he opposed the Vietnam War, and was then arrested and found guilty of draft evasion. Stripped of his boxing title and license, he wasn’t put into prison but he had to fight his way up to the U.S. Supreme Court to gain his boxing license and title back so that he could fight again. His resilience in many areas of his life have made him a person that has influenced so many people in all walks of life.
Let’s take a look at some of the different areas where Ali was so influential for different people. We’ll start with his boxing career, since this is the area where he is the most well known throughout the world. During his whole career as a boxer, he only had five losses. Five losses compared to fifty-six (56) wins is a massive achievement for anyone, especially considering that he won the lineal heavyweight championship three times and an Olympic gold medal for Light Heavyweight Boxing in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. He also found against some of the other major boxers of the time that all have very impressive careers as well, such as George Foreman and Joe Frazier.
He was named “Fighter of the Year” by Ring Magazine more than anyone else and has been in more “Fight of the Year” bouts than anyone else. Ali was also inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and actually holds wins over seven of the other inductees there. One of only three boxers named “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated, he also holds several other wonderful honors including “Kentucky Athlete of the Century”.
In 1984, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a disease that is at a much higher risk for those who have been subjected to severe head trauma (as most boxers are). Of course, this has not stopped him from holding a very busy social life. He has served as a guest referee at the inaugural WrestleMania event, been in the Tournament of Roses Parade, was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year, and founded the Muhammad Ali Center in downtown Louisville Kentucky. After retiring from boxing, Ali has devoted himself to humanitarian endeavors all over the world. During 1991, Ali traveled to Iraq in the Gulf War to meet with Saddam Hussein to try and negotiate the release of American hostages. His humanitarian works have earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom as well as the title of U.N. Messenger of Peace in 2002 when he traveled to Afghanistan. He also earned the “Otto Hahn Peace Medal In Gold” in 2005 along with his Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work with the civil rights movement.