Muhammed Ali was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1942. He began boxing at age 12 and went on to win 100 amateur boxing matches with only five losses. He later became a world champion boxer, as well as a dedicated humanitarian and activist. Ali's numerous boxing titles and awards, along with his outspoken views on religion and politics, have made him one of the most recognizable and influential figures of our time.
Ali fought during the golden age of boxing and successfully defeated every top heavyweight boxer during his time. He won two Golden Gloves championships, two World Heavyweight championships and a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics. Ali is tied with Babe Ruth as being the most recognizable athlete of all time, according to the Associated Press. Ali was named Ring Magazine's "Fighter of the Year" more times than any other boxer. He is one of only three boxers that Sports Illustrated has named "Sportsman of the Year." In 1987, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. In 1997, Ali won both the Arthur Ashe Courage Award and the Essence Living Legend Award.
Religious and Political Views
Ali resisted his given name, Cassius Clay, because he felt it was a "slave name." In 1964, it was revealed that he had converted to the Nation of Islam and would change his name to Muhammed Ali to symbolize this conversion. He was outspoken in his support for the civil rights movement and was outwardly supportive of separatism. He strongly opposed the Vietnam War and was arrested and stripped of his boxing license due to evading the draft.
Ali has won many awards for his humanitarian efforts toward ending hunger and helping the world's children. He was instrumental in providing millions of meals and medical supplies to people in Africa, Asia and Mexico. He also helps out at the Special Olympics, Make-A-Wish Foundation, soup kitchens and hospitals. Ali participates in an annual fight night to raise money for the Parkinson Research Center in Arizona. He has also made many goodwill missions overseas to help those in need and helped aid in the release of 15 hostages during the Gulf War.
In 1984, at the age of 42, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disease of the central nervous system characterized by tremors and trouble balancing. It is believed that the disease may have been caused by repeated blows to the head from years of boxing. Few have brought more awareness to the disease than Ali, who founded the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center (MAPC) and Movement Disorders Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. The center is committed to treatment of and research and education about Parkinson's disease.