“I told you all, I was the greatest of all time.”
Muhammad Ali Boxer, one of the most beloved yet controversial figures of the 20th century American sports was the world’s first and only three-time world boxing champion, as well as an activist, and philanthropist. You may have read Muhammad Ali’s story a number of times before, however, we have come up with facts that are not only lesser-known but will also make you admire the titan more.
1. A Louisville police officer was the reason why Muhammad Ali became a boxer.
Muhammad Ali began boxing at the age of 12 after reporting the theft of his $60 bicycle to a police officer, Joe Martin. The cop found Mohammed Ali upset on the staircase one night and upon asking, Muhammed Ali told him that his bike had been stolen. But little did he know that his words were about to have such an impact on his life when he said “I wanted to whup whoever stole it”
Martin saw the anger and spark in his eyes, hence in return he told Muhammad that if he wanted to beat the thief, he would have to learn how to fight. That was the moment that turned out to be the start of his glorious boxing career.
Martin also became his initial coach. Alongside this, Ali would also train by running alongside the bus to school, shadow-boxing with the cider tree in the backyard of his childhood home, and sparring with friends from his neighborhood.
2. His conversion to Islam came about after he saw a cartoon depicting slavery.
Born as Cassius Clay in 1942, Muhammad Ali converted from Christianity to Islam in 1964, changing his name to Cassius X, and then eventually to Muhammad Ali Boxer.
In a letter revealed by biographer Jonathan Eig, Ali wrote about why he converted to Islam. He spotted a cartoon, which depicted a white slave owner beating his black slave to force him to pray to Jesus, in a newspaper that was handed out for the religious/political group Nation of Islam.
The message came across clearly to Muhammad Ali that Christianity was being forced upon the black slave by a white man.
“It [the cartoon] did something to me. And it made sense.”
3. He was exiled from the boxing ring because he refused to fight in the Vietnam War.
Muhammad Ali Boxer
In 1967, Muhammed Ali was stripped of his title by the boxing commission because he refused to be drafted into the army for the Vietnam War.
“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America.”
He adopted the status of conscientious objector. He did not fight in the ring for three and a half years.
4. In addition to being a boxer, he was also a poet.
Many people know the line ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’, after getting the chance to read Muhammad Ali’s biography or going through the motivational quotes on the internet. But the line is actually from a poem that Ali wrote shortly after he regained his title by beating George Foreman in 1974. Below is an excerpt from that poem:
“You think the world was shocked when Nixon resigned?
Wait ’til I whup George Foreman’s behind.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
His hand can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.
Now you see me, now you don’t.
George thinks he will, but I know he won’t.
I done wrassled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale.
Only last week I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a
I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.”
The highs and lows of Muhammad Ali’s boxing career are well known amongst his fans throughout the world, but his enduring legacy is also the result in part of the religious and political choices – often not very popular ones – that the boxer made throughout his lifetime.
While of course, the world will get to see more of behemoths in the ring, but there won’t ever be another “Muhammad Ali Boxer”