Little Bits of History

Ali, the Greatest

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 29, 2010

Cassius Clay or Muhammad Ali (Photo by Ira Rosenberg)

October 29, 1960: Cassius Clay, the 6’3” tall Olympic Gold Medal boxer, has his first professional fight and beats Tunney Hunsaker in a six-round decision. Clay went on to a 19-0 record, with 15 knockouts in the next three years. He continued on to become Heavyweight Champion, as well.

Clay was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1942, a poor child with few possessions. At the age of 12, he had one possession that he prized above all others, a red and white Schwinn bike. He rode it to a fair and when he came out of the building, he found his bike stolen. He approached a policeman, Joe Elsby Martin, Sr., and said he wanted to “whup” the thief. Joe told young Cassius that if was intent on that course of action, he needed to learn to fight. Joe was willing to teach him. Joe became his coach and led him to the 1960 Olympics were Clay won the gold in boxing.

Returning home to Kentucky, Clay was refused service in a white-only restaurant, and even got in a fight with a white gang. Racial inequality was rampant and Clay, gold medal notwithstanding, was the “wrong” race. He threw his gold medal into the Ohio River.

He went on to professional boxing where he won 56 of his 61 bouts, 37 by knockouts. He beat Sonny Liston to become heavyweight champion of the world. He changed religions and became a conscientious objector, refusing to fight in the Vietnam War. He was stripped of his title and his license, fined $10,000 and sentenced to jail. However, he remained free. He eventually returned to boxing. He also loved poetry which was reflected in the names of his fights. The Rumble in the Jungle and the Thrilla of Manila are two. He was named “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated. He won the Presidiential Medal of Freedom in 2005. He is retired but continues to do humanitarian works around the globe. When he changed his religion, he also changed his name – to Muhammad Ali.

“It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”

“I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.”

“The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

“I am the greatest.”

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. ” – all from Muhammad Ali

Also on this day, in 1863 the International Red Cross got its start.

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