Today marks the 70th birthday of “The Greatest.” Born in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17th, 1942, Ali’s original name was Cassius Clay, but he changed it when he joined the Nation of Islam in 1964. Ali is regarded as one of, if not the greatest boxers of all time. Ali picked up boxing early. Fuming because his bike was stolen, local Louisville boxing coach Joe Martin found Ali threatening to wup whoever stole his bike, but convinced him to learn how to box first. The rest is history.
His Amateur career was bookmarked by winning the Light Heavyweight Gold Medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, but Ali also won six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two National Golden Gloves titles and the Amateur Athletic Union National Title. He ended his Amateur career with a record of 100 wins to 5 losses. As a professional, Ali changed boxing. Traditionally, fighters protect their face by keeping both hands up at all times. Instead of expending energy on protecting his face, Ali focused on speedy footwork and his patented rope-a-dope to win fights. At age 22, Ali became the youngest boxer to win the title from a reigning heavyweight champion when he defeated Sonny Liston in 1964. He would loss and regain his title several times over his 21 year career and take part in some of the sport’s most historical matches (i.e. “The Thrilla in Manila”, “The Rumble in the Jungle” and “The Fight of the Century”). In 1999, ESPN voted Ali the “Sportsman of the Century” for not only his undeniable achievements in the ring, but his larger than life personality out of the ring. Happy 70th Birthday to the People’s Champion.