5 Things We Bet You Did Not Know About Muhammad Ali
If you were alive during the time when Muhammad Ali (also known as Cassius Clay) was boxing you couldn’t help being exposed to the hype. His name, his fights and his quotes were everywhere. Here was a man who claimed to be “the greatest.” He could “Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee,” and wasn’t the least bit shy about telling you about it. In fact, the sport of professional boxing would never be the same after Ali entered the ring, and that was just fine with the fans. Ali soon became a phenomenon, everybody wanted to know how this less than ideal specimen could keep from losing bout after bout so, they started studying him. When Ali first entered the boxing scene he was barely 12 years old. By the time he turned 18 he boxed in the Summer Olympics held in Rome, Italy in 1960 winning the gold medal. He started fighting professionally shortly thereafter. There would be no stopping Muhammad Ali. By the time he turned 22 years of age, he won the WBC (World Boxing Council), WBA (World Boxing Association), and lineal heavyweight titles previously held by Sonny Liston in 1964. To date, Muhammad Ali was, and still is the only boxer to claim three consecutive lineal heavyweight championships in professional boxing competitions.
You cannot talk about the 1960’s without mentioning the impact certain high-profile individuals made in social, racial and civil rights; and Ali was right in the middle of the controversy. He got rid of his “slave name”, refused to be drafted into the United States military and became a Muslim. His subsequent arrest from “dodging the draft” led to being stripped of every title he had previously earned when found guilty. In an historic 1971 Supreme Court appeal, Ali’s case was overturned, making him an iconic figure for the conscientious objector’s protesting America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
The Midas Mindset
According to Greek mythology, there was a royal house consisting of three members named Midas. King Midas would come to be known as the most famous due to his “golden touch” which gave him a great power: whenever he touched something, no matter what it was, it turned to pure gold. This enviable gift had was bestowed on him by one of the mythological gods at his wish for great riches. Everything was fine until the king’s beloved daughter was irreversibly transformed into a statue of gold one moment after he lovingly hugged her. It is also said that he died of starvation because of his inability to eat solid “gold” food.
We know this story isn’t true. No one has the power to turn objects into gold, however, the term “Midas Touch” is still used today to describe the amazing and lucrative results some people get when they delve into ventures unknown. Regardless of the consequences, Muhammad Ali would live his life to the fullest, getting involved in religion, entertainment, activism and book writing to name a few. He would listen to his heart and react accordingly. From the very beginning of his career, he would shock every boxing expert, manager, promoter and fan by succeeding at everything he “touched.” Ali won, and kept on winning regardless of what the “measuring tape” said. He was continuously quoted because of the words he spoke describing his faith, determination and relationships. In fact, Muhammad Ali is still speaking-if you listen very, very closely.
Mind Over Matter
“What you’re thinking, is what you’re becoming.”
― Muhammad Ali
The boxing world has always gone by the numbers; measuring the athlete’s weight, chest when expanded, fist size and arm length (reach). When Ali was measured, he came up short on every single one and was thought to be a failure. According to the official yardstick, Ali’s larger than life career should never have happened, so-what made the difference? The answer to that question would make him a role model and icon for millions, and it all started with his mouth. He had the uncanny ability to taunt and brag and taunt some more. He knew he had what it took to fight because he had been fighting even before his teenage years. Let’s look at Muhammad Ali’s timeline, the events and steps he took on the way to becoming “the greatest.”
Step #1: As Fate Would Have It
Many of us remember our first bicycle mainly because we wanted one so, so bad. We remember the color, the accessories and the way we felt when we finally got to ride it. Even with someone helping from behind, pushing us on, keeping us steady and clapping like mad the first time we made it around the block without falling. Our bikes were our freedom.
A young Muhammad Ali had a bike at the age of 12 that someone stole from him while he was at the Columbia Auditorium. He was beyond mad, so mad in fact that his anger compelled him to report the theft to the police. As fate would have it, this is where he met Officer Joe Martin who happened to be at the auditorium coaching kids how to box. Ali had one thing on his mind; find the thief and fight him! Joe responded by telling him, first you have to learn how. As they say, the rest is history.
Step #2: You Better Work
Ali never fooled around. He trained 6 days a week starting with a run each morning and the gym each night. Hour after hour he trained focusing on endurance and technique. When the Columbia Gym where Joe taught closed for the day, Ali would head out for another; always training, always fine tuning his boxing style.
All Roads Lead to and From Rome
“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are.” ― Muhammad Ali
A short 6 years later at the age of 18, Muhammad Ali went to Rome. On September 5, he fought against Zbigniew Pietrzykowski and won the “gold” at the 1960 Summer Olympics. He turned pro shortly thereafter. Ali was undefeated during the 1960’s. They are as follows:
1st Pro Fight: Ali fought and won against Tunney Hunsaker age 30. Hunsaker was a resident and Chief of Police in Fayetteville, West Virginia.
12-27-60: KO round 4 against Herb Siler.
01-17-61: KO round 3 against Anthony Esperti.
02-07-61: KO round 1 against Jimmy Robinson.
01-21-61: TKO round 7 against Donnie Fleeman.
04-19-61: KO round 2 against LaMar Clark.
06-26-61: 1st Las Vegas fight against Gorgeous George Wagner. Ali wins by unanimous points.
10-07-61: TKO round 6 against Alex Miteff.
11-29-61: TKO round 7 against Willi Besmanoff.
02-10-62: TKO round 4 against Sonny Banks.
03-28-62: TKO round 4 against Don Warner.
04-23-62: TKO round 4 against George Logan.
05-19-62: TKO round 7 against Billy Daniels.
07-20-62: KO round 5 against Alejandro Lavorante.
11-15-62: TKO round 4 against Archie Moore.
01-24-63: KO round 3 against Charlie Powell.
03-13-63: Unanimous Decision round 10 against Doug Jones.
06-18-63: TKO round 5 against Henry Cooper.
02-25-64: TKO round 7 against Sonny Liston.
05-25-65: KO round 1 against Sonny Liston (rematch).
11-22-65: TKO round 12 against Floyd Patterson.
03-29-66: Ali wins after 15 rounds against George Chuvalo.
05-21-66: TKO round 6 against Henry Cooper.
08-06-66: KO round 3 against Brian London.
09-10-66: TKO round 12 against Karl Mildenberger.
11-14-66: TKO round 3 against Cleveland Williams.
02-06-67: Ali wins after 15 rounds against Ernie Terrell.
03-22-67: KO round 7 against Zora Folley.
It was 1964 when he turned 22. His titles during this time include:
· The WBA also known as World Boxing Association. It is the first organized and one of four primary organizations which have the distinction of sanctioning boxing competitions in world championship matches as well as the WBO, IBF and WBC.
· The WBC is also one of the four elite organizations who has the authority to sanction and honor boxers with a title.
Ali’s Life Outside the Ring
“Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.” ― Muhammad Ali
Traditionally, most boxers were more concerned about fighting than fame. They had managers and legal contacts to handle the media, the public and anything else that came up. But not Ali. He craved the fame, loved the spotlight and used them both to his full advantage. He soon became famous for talking trash which is a type of insult usually exchanged between athletes on a more or less “friendly” basis. There seemed to be no end to the ways Ali could express himself. He had a lot to say and he was going to say it albeit verbally, by writing, rhyming and even singing. Surprised? Have a look at this autobiographical poem he wrote:
To make America the greatest is my goal
So, I beat the Russian and I beat the Pole
And for the USA won the medal of gold.
The Greeks said you’re better than the Cassius of old.
We like your name, we like your game.
So, make Rome your home if you will.
I said I appreciate your kind hospitality,
But the USA is my country still,
‘Cause they’re waiting to welcome me in Louisville.
In 1969 Ali wrote the following poem for a television appearance he made. Joe Namath was also a guest along with Michael Parkinson:
I like your show
and I like your style,
but your pay’s so bad
I won’t be back for a while!
While Ali had the knack and talent to write poems, he also started making match predictions in rhyme. David Remnick, whom Ali hired to be his biographer, described Ali as a boxer who talk trash while making it rhyme. Check out the poem below. It was written about a boxer, Archie Moore, who had more than 180 wins as a professional boxer to his credit. Ali wrote this rhyme before the fight took place on a chalkboard that hung on the wall of his dressing room-which, was a prediction that came true:
MOORE IN FOUR
Archie’s been living off the fat of the land.
I’m here to give him his pension plan.
When you come to the fight don’t block the door.
‘Cause you’ll all go home after round four.
Ali’s predictions were unstoppable. In 1963 he was scheduled to fight against Henry Cooper. Take a look at this prophetic tidbit:
If Cooper gives me jive,
I’ll stop him in five.
If he gives me more,
I’ll stop him in four.
Did Ali Have Anything to Say About Losing?
The Day the Curse was Reversed
In 1970 after 10 years of being undefeated, Muhammad Ali was scheduled to fight against Oscar Bonavena in Madison Square Garden. Everyone knew him as “The Bull” as he just finished a brutal match with Joe Frazier. Bonavena not only went the distance with Frazier but knocked him down twice. Before the match started, Bonavena is said to have made a slanderous remark referring to Ali as a “chicken” because he refused to join the United States Army. He then proceeded to use the term “black kangaroo” suggesting that Ali was gay with bad hygiene habits. Ali retorted by writing this:
I’ve never wanted to whup a man so bad.
I’m gonna put some soul on his head.
I tell you that the Beast is mine.
And tonight, he falls in nine.
“Funny, when I was predictin’ the ninth round, I never thought I came close to predictin’ on myself. I made a lot of mistakes in that fight, and it cost me. I got careless with him in the ninth round, and you can’t do that with Oscar. In that ninth round I got hit by a hook harder than Frazier could ever throw. Numb! Like I was numb all over. Shock and vibrations is all I felt, that’s how I knew I was alive. I mean, I was jarred. Even my toes felt the vibrations. The first thought that came to mind—another good one or two might have dropped me. So, the minute I’m hit—two steps backwards and I’m on the other side of the ring.”
—Muhammad Ali, Following his loss to Oscar Bonavena
Note: In a highly anticipated rematch, Ali and Bonavena went at it again. This time however, the outcome was a win for Ali after knocking Bonavena down in the 15th round. This was Bonavena’s first knockout after 68 pro matches and it came after Ali knocked him down for the third time. Of course, Ali was not going to miss the opportunity to announce his greatness one more time by shouting, “I have done what Joe Frazier couldn’t do—knocked out Oscar Bonavena. Now, where is he? I want Joe Frazier!”
A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life”
― Muhammad Ali
Leon Spinks beat Ali for the heavyweight championship in 1978, then fought him again to reclaim it giving him the distinction of being the only heavyweight boxer in history to win the championship three times.
Muhammad Ali was a lot of things to a lot of people. He was a father, activist, philanthropist, athlete, movie star, Broadway star, author, poet and boxer. He lived at a time when the world was slowly moving towards the inevitable changes that would take place during the 1960’s. A man in the right place at the right time. He began his journey because he wanted to get the thief that stole his bike and walked right into the arms of a policeman that knew exactly what to do with an angry young man. Ali told everyone he was “pretty” but, he was so much more than that. He was a rarity, a phenomenon that was happening right in front of our eyes and we loved every minute of it. He spoke and things happened. History was being made while licenses were stripped and reinstated. Even the Supreme Court knew the name Muhammad Ali. Bodies tumbled, records were broken and so were the boxer’s egos. Everybody wanted to fight Ali just to see what they were made of but, he was ready for them-ready and waiting. The United States especially was witnessing the making of an icon. Not one they would have chosen for themselves, but a hero to the marginalized masses of America. He was their voice and he was being heard loud and clear. Ali was the epitome of speed, movement, and power. He had grace, style and a smile that would knock you out even if he never laid a glove on you. He could dish it out but he could take the punishment too. In 1973, he fought against Ken Norton, going through ten complete rounds with his jaw broken. George Foreman, who is known for his brutally powerful punches tells about the time when he punched Ali dead on his jaw holding nothing back, and Ali leaned over and just whispered “George, is that all you got?”
In 1981 Ali retired. Well, from boxing professionally, not from our hearts. He gave some of us thrills and chills when he stepped inside a ring, but for others he offered hope and inspiration for the future. Here was a man, a black man calling himself “the Greatest” and you know what, he was.
http://www.meaningfulhq.com/growth-mindset.html Dean Bokhari Muhammad Ali’s Real Secret To Success—The “Growth Mindset”
https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/jun/05/muhammad-ali-every-fight-professional-61- Rob Smyth 2015-06-05 article
Muhammad Ali: all of his 61 fights as a professional