FASCINATING FACTS: 28 Iconic Images and Facts About Boxing Legend Muhammad Ali

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Muhammad Ali was truly the greatest the world ever saw, for he was not merely a man, but a phenomenon. His life has inspired the lives of countless people throughout decades – some even stepping into the pantheon of legends themselves. Ali has passed us by, but left behind 74 years of a rich life to witness and take priceless lessons from. On this note, we bring you 28 Iconic pictures and facts about Muhammad Ali to celebrate his life and pay our own tribute to him.

1. Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr, named after his father. He changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1964.

image source: thesun.co.uk

Cassius Clay officially converted to Islam only days after his first victory over Sonny Liston, on March 6, 1964. When asked why he picked the name, he replied with:

“I am Muhammad Ali, a free name – it means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me”

Ali further explained that Cassius Clay was his “slave name”, as he did not choose it and did not want it.(source)

2. A 12-year old Muhammad Ali(then Cassius Clay), striking a pose in 1954.

image source: corbisimages.com

3. As a child, Muhammad Ali was refused an autograph by his boxing idol, Sugar Ray Robinson. When Ali became a prizefighter, he vowed never to deny an autograph request – a principle he upheld throughout his career. 

image source: wikimedia.org

He even had a dedicated P.O. box for anyone who wanted his autograph!(source)

4. When Muhammad Ali was 12 years old, he and a friend went to the Columbia Auditorium. On returning from the show they went back to get their bicycles only to discover that Muhammad Ali’s had been stolen. This incident inspired Ali to become a boxer. 

Image source: Getty Images via telegraph.co.uk

Angered by the robbery, Ali reported the crime to police officer Joe Martin, who happened to also be a boxing coach at the Columbia Gym. When Muhammad Ali told Martin that he wanted to beat up the person who stole his bike, Martin suggested that he should learn to fight first. Days later, he began training in boxing at Martin’s gym.(source)

5. Ali demonstrating his incredible footwork on a TV show. 

image source: tumblr.com

6. Dollar bills, y’all! Here is Muhammad Ali with his huge stash of winnings in 1964. 

image source: Richard Meek / gettyimages.com

7. Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston on May 25, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine.

Image courtesy: AP Photo/John Rooney(taken from)

Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston, shouting and gesturing shortly after dropping Liston with a short hard right to the jaw on May 25, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine. The bout lasted only one minute into the first round. Ali is the only man ever to win the world heavyweight boxing championship three times.(source)

8. Aerial view of Muhammad Ali’s knockout of Cleveland Williams, in 1966.

Image courtesy: Neil Leifer(taken from)

9. Muhammad Ali blows out the candles on a cake baked for his 25th birthday, Jan. 17, 1967.

Image courtesy: AP Photo/Ed Kolenovsky (taken from)

The cake, weighing 578 1/2 pounds, was presented to Ali as he started the day’s training in Houston. Fifteen hundred eggs, 150 pounds each of flour, sugar and butter were used in the making of the cake.(source)

10. Muhammad Ali in a match with Brian London in 1966. His punches were so swift that his opponents often did not register what hit them (literally) until it was too late. 

image source: youtube.com

11. Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali and his bride, Veronica Porsche.

Image courtesy: AP Photo/stf (taken from)

Muhammad Ali and his bride, Veronica Porsche posing for photographers on their wedding day, June 19, 1977 in Los Angeles.(source)

12. Muhammad Ali in 1972, engaging in a play-fight with two Irish policemen. Although intimidating and formidable in the ring, Ali was known for his easy-going demeanour everywhere else.

image source: mirror.co.uk

13. Cassius Clay (not Muhammad Ali yet) training in a pool at the Sir John Hotel in Miami, 1961.

image courtesy: Flip Schulke / aliunderwater.com

14. Ali standing outside the federal courthouse in Houston, after being stripped of his world heavyweight title and boxing licence for refusing to be inducted into the United States Army; 1967. 

image courtesy: Bettmann / CORBIS

Muhammad Ali was drafted into the Army but refused to join due to religious reasons. He was arrested on charges of draft evasion on April 28th, sentenced to five years in prison and fined heftily ($10,000). His licence was suspended for three years, and Ali did not fight from the ages of 25 and 28.(source)

15. One of the first MMA fights was between Muhammad Ali and a Japanese pro-wrestler. Only shortly before the fight, Ali’s camp realized it was not going to be orchestrated. After the fight (and 64 kicks to his leg), Ali was left with 2 blood clots which nearly caused his leg to be amputated.

image courtesy: Sankei Archive via gettyimages.com

‘Isn’t there any Oriental fighter who will challenge me? I’ll give him one million dollars if he wins.’

Japan’s Antonio Inoki accepted the challenge in earnest, kickstarting one of the most dangerous fights of Ali’s life. By the end of it, despite Ali’s team placing Inoki on a severe handicap, he was beaten to a pulp by the oriental MMA artist.(source)

16. Muhammad Ali reportedly went two months without sex before a big fight, claiming it made him unbeatable in the ring.

image source: Lawrence Schiller / gettyimages.com

The underlying idea behind this is the notion that refraining from ejaculating preserves the levels of testosterone in the body – a hormone that controls both sexual desire and aggression in males. It clearly worked, looking at these impressive stats: 56 wins in 61 fights, with 37 knockouts all in all.(source)

17. Muhammad Ali dodging 21 punches in 10 seconds!

image source: giphy.com

18. Muhammad Ali with a young Michael Jackson. 

image courtesy: Brian Douglas / fineartamerica.com

19. Human rights activist Malcolm X trying to calm down Muhammad Ali in this photo from early 1964. 

image courtesy: Bob Gomel via ilmfeed.com

20. Muhammad Ali traveled to Iraq in 1990. He negotiated a deal with Saddam Hussein, eventually releasing 15 American prisoners.

Image source: nypost.com

Ali was not your run of the mill superstar sportsman. Even with a fortune under his belt, he stood up to his own government in the war in Southeast Asia. His conversion to Islam helped him too, as it gave him more credibility in the turbulent Baghdad of 1990’s. Before Muhammad Ali managed to persuade Saddam Hussein to release the prisoners, it was inconceivable that a mere sportsman could have accomplished such a feat.(source)

21. Muhammad Ali threw his 1960 Olympic Gold Medal into the Ohio River, after being refused service at a “whites-only” restaurant. He would later be awarded an honorary medal in 1996. 

image source: FPG / Getty Images via espn.go.com

After being denied service in a Louisville restaurant, he brawled with racist bikers and finally threw his gold medal into the river. “We don’t serve negroes”,  they told him, and he replied, “That’s OK. I don’t eat ‘em.”(source)

22. Muhammad Ali V/S the Beatles, circa 1965 during his preparation for the 25 February fight against heavyweight champion Sonny Liston.

image source: beatlesbible.com

23. A fight between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner inspired the character of Rocky Balboa after Sylvester Stallone spent his only remaining $106 on watching the match.  

image courtesy: Cleveland Press Collection, CSU Archives via boxingnewsonline.net

Stallone recalls the event in his biography,

“Early in my acting career I realized the only way I would ever prove myself was to create my own role in my own script. On my 29th birthday, I had $106 in the bank. My best birthday present was a sudden revelation that I had to write the kind of screenplay that I personally enjoyed seeing … To cheer myself up, I took the last of my entertainment money and went to see the Ali-Wepner fight on closed circuit TV. Chuck Wepner, a battling, bruising club fighter who had never made the big time, was having his shot.”

He adds emphatically:

“That night, Rocky Balboa was born.”

24. When Muhammad Ali was invited to North Korea in 1995 with an athlete group, he didn’t speak much during the visit. At one function, as officials claimed they could take out the US or Japan whenever they wanted to, Ali declared loudly “no wonder we hate these motherf–s.”

image source: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Professional wrestling manager Ric Flair writes about the incident with Ali in his autobiography Ric Flair: To Be The Man,

“The festival was truly one of the oddest events in this country’s strange history of contact with the outside world. Although the government had hoped to lure Western tourists to Pyongyang, most of those who showed up were overseas Koreans yearning to see long-lost relatives. Their fervent requests for visits were callously refused, however, and instead of enjoying family reunions, they found themselves prisoners at a pro-wrestling extravaganza.”

He adds,

“Because of the ravages of Parkinson’s disease, it was difficult to understand Muhammad Ali when he spoke. But at one function, we were sitting at a big, round table with a group of North Korean luminaries when one of the guys started rambling on about the moral superiority of North Korea, and how they could take out the United States or Japan any time they wanted. Suddenly, Ali piped up, clear as a bell, No wonder we hate these motherf—–s.’”


25. Police tried for over two hours, but it took Muhammad Ali to finally talk a suicidal 21-year-old off the 9th floor of a high-rise in LA, 1981.

image source: imgur.com

After the police, a psychologist and a minister had given up on the man, Ali, who was nearby rushed to a nearby window and extended his help. After a tense 20 minutes had passed, the man wept and was taken to a psychiatric ward. The heavyweight champion even promised to visit the man the following week.(source)

26. When 14-year-old Mike Tyson saw Larry Holmes beat Muhammad Ali, he called up Ali and said: I’ll grow up and get him back for you. 7 years later, Tyson meets Holmes; retired Ali steps into the ring and says: “Remember what you said — get him for me.” 

Image courtesy: Focus on Sport / Getty Images

The date was October 2, 1980. Holmes defeats Ali and retains the title. Tyson recalls the event in an interview with ESPN,

“I was offended by how bad he beat up Ali. When we drove home to Catskill [about an hour from Albany], nobody in the car said a word, we were all so upset. The next morning, Cus was on the phone with Muhammad Ali after taking this shellacking from Holmes. He said to Ali, ‘I have this young black kid who is going to be heavyweight champion someday and I want you to talk to him.’”

Years later, Ali returns as a guest to the Tyson v/s Holmes fight and whispers a single sentence to the Tyson decimates Larry Holmes, reaching the peak of his career that night.(source)

27. Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1984 when he was 42 years old, speculated to be the result of sustaining brain injuries during his career as a boxer. 

image source: Getty Images via mirror.co.uk

Symptoms of Parkinson’s appeared when he retired in 1981, even though he received an official diagnosis only three years later. As Dr. Dennis Cope, Ali’s physician and director of the training program in general internal medicine at the UCLA Medical Center said at the time,

“Our feeling is that Muhammad Ali’s condition is ‘pugilistic brain syndrome,’ caused by injuries to the brain from fighting.”


28. Muhammad Ali’s star is the only one that is mounted on a wall instead of the sidewalk, because he “did not want to be walked on.”

image courtesy: AP Photos / Reed Saxon

His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is the only star which is not on the sidewalk; rather, it is on the wall of the Kodak Theatre to honor his request. Ali, who was 59 years old at the time, explained,

“I bear the name of our Beloved Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him), and it is impossible that I allow people to trample over his name.”


RIP Muhammad Ali, ‘The Greatest of All Time’


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