4 things you never knew about Muhammad Ali
The man who inspired the movie about a boxer ‘Rocky’, has passed on but the world will never forget the legacy he left behind.
The legend, known as Muhammad Ali was the greatest boxer the world has ever known, and not only inspired boxers from the silver screen, but in the fighting ring.
Muhammad Ali wasn’t his name
The world calls him ‘Muhammad Ali’, but that wasn’t his original name. In 1964, he changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali but the world did not openly accept it just yet.
His talent was undisputed but all his other actions courted controversy – converting to Islam, being an outspoken advocate for civil rights, and refusing to serve when drafted for the Vietnam War.
Prior to a fight between Ali and opponent Ernie Terrell in 1967, Terrell kept calling Ali “Clay” to rile him up. It worked too well. Terrell was brutally beaten as Ali shouted “What’s my name?” at every round.
Inspired by a bicycle thief
Everyone needs an inspiration to get started, and Muhammad Ali was no exception. When he was 12, a bicycle his father gave him was stolen, and the angry boy told a police officer that he wanted to “whup” the bicycle thief.
“You better learn to fight before you start fighting,” was the officer’s advice to Ali.
That police officer was Joe Martin, an amateur boxing coach who launched
Ali’s career. His bicycle was never recovered, but Ali probably got another as a reward.
“Float like a butterfly, Sting like a bee”
Ali has made a few phrases popular, especially when he declared himself “The Greatest”, a nickname that has stuck with him his whole life.
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”, originated from Ali’s unique style for a boxer as he was quick and danced around his opponents, jabbing at them from unexpected angles.
Ali won his first belt from Sonny Liston in 1964, considered a huge upset at the time, propelling the 22-year-old to global fame. He was then the youngest contender ever to win the heavyweight title. That record was later beaten by Mike Tyson, who won it at age 20.
Scared of flying
As mighty a man as Ali was, he had a fear of his own. Opponents fear him inside and outside of the ring, but the three-time heavyweight world champion once wanted to back out of competing in the 1960 Rome Olympics as he was afraid of flying.
Coach Martin managed to talk him into it, and he went on to win the light heavyweight gold medal. Reports say Ali bought a parachute and wore it throughout the flight.