Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., was one of the greatest professional boxers to walk the earth. Though he passed away, the memory of Muhammad Ali and his accomplishments will never be forgotten. Below are 10 reasons why he was “The Greatest.”
His Boxing Prowess
This is the one thing Muhammed Ali was most known for. But what really made him such an incredible boxer? The first four points highlight what made Muhammed Ali a boxing legend.
Three-time Heavyweight Champion
“Muhammad Ali is remembered for his prowess in the ring; he was the first person to win the world heavyweight belt three times! I His first championship win was against the fearsome Sonny Liston when he was only 22 years old.
Ali’s final record of 56 wins and 5 losses with 37 knockouts is impressive even by today’s standard. And the manner in which he dominated opponents during his prime placed him firmly on the list of boxing’s immortal.
His speed, superb footwork, and the ability to take a punch on the ring were some of the qualities that made him a truly global boxing icon.
Boxing master strategist
Ali's wins weren't all the result of power and speed. In fact, he was often accused of weaving out of danger and lacking true knockout power. But he effectively compensated for this with clever boxing strategies. In one instance, he outsmarted a tough foe George Foreman with a risky strategy during 1974, "The Rumble in the Jungle" in Zaire(modern-day DRC)
His rope-a-dope plan is one of boxing's most outstanding examples of strategic improvisation in boxing. Rather than eluding Foreman , Ali got close to him and withstood a barrage of brutal punches.
This caused Foreman to expend far more energy than he did. And when Ali struck, he did so with precision. By the final three rounds, he had enough energy left to knock Foreman out.
In 1967, due to his resistance to conscription during the Vietnam War, Ali was stripped of his titles and suspended from boxing for three years. Despite this, when his boxing license was reinstated he proved his critics wrong and prevailed in his first two comeback fights.
In 1971, he challenged Joe Frazier, who had become heavyweight champion during his absence from the ring. He lost this fight but went on to win, 10 fights in a row, 8 of them against world-class opponents. Very few athletes can be able to make such an impressive comeback after being out of the sport for that long.
Off-the-ring Charisma and Quick Wit
Referred to as "The Louisville Lip," Muhammed Ali was a master of one-liners and whimsical poetry. He was known to spout often catchy phrases like “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”, "I'm so mean I make medicine sick,” "I am the greatest! I said that even before I knew I was." to name a few.
This was often a gimmick to bait opponents, but it quickly earned him a reputation as a charismatic, witty boxer and brought a renewed focus to the sport of boxing.
His Larger Than Life Character
To stop only at Muhammed Ali’s achievements in the ring would be to do an injustice to this icon. Some would even say Ali was an even more incredible individual off the ring. The next four points cover his impact on the world outside of boxing.
His had a strong conviction for what he believed in and championed for positive change on different issues in society.
Resilience Over Parkinson's Syndrome
Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1984, three years after he retired from boxing. He did not give up; instead, he bravely battled the disease for the next 32 years. His resilience provided a message of hope to millions of people.
In all that time, he capitalized on his public image to raise awareness of Parkinson’s Disease. He also heavily advocated for increased government funding for Parkinson’s Disease research and even donated his own funds to research.
As a result of his influence, it is now widely accepted that regular exercise— particularly when begun early after diagnosis—can reduce symptoms and greatly increase a patient’s quality of life.
The fact that Ali stood for something bigger than boxing is what makes him a superstar. He didn’t cower away in fear and was never afraid to bravely make a stance for the things he believed in.
Even after his boxing career ended, he continued to be a force for social change as he rejected the dogmatic beliefs about Black Muslims and advocated for reconciliation and cultural harmony. Many people saw Ali as their hero and at one point was designated UN Messenger of Peace in 1998.
Ali once said, “I’ve always wanted to be more than just a boxer. More than just the three-time heavyweight champion. I wanted to use my fame, and this face that everyone knows so well, to help uplift and inspire people around the world.” The boxing icon made humanitarian trips to Cuba in 1998 and 1996, where he donated over one million dollars in medical aid to the country.
He also traveled to Iraq to secure the release of 15 United States hostages during the first Gulf War. These are only a few examples of his loving nature towards his fellow human beings, but they go a long way to show that the man walked the talk.
Inspired the 1960s Antiwar Movement
Muhammed Ali made headlines worldwide when he refused his induction into the U.S. armed forces, invoking his constitutional right to decline service as a conscientious objector. At the time, the Vietnam War was still supported by a majority of Americans.
His decision to speak out against it was hugely controversial and was met with a lot of resistance by politicians and the media who named him a coward and traitor. Yet Ali was acting not from fear but from the strength of his convictions and in many ways, his very vocal opinions essentially jumpstarted the Sixties anti-war movement.
Ali also had a huge impact on the entertainment industry. His first album was a spoken word record called I Am the Greatest! was nominated for a Grammy. He starred as himself in the 1977’s movie The Greatest, and since then, more than ten films about him have been made. In 2002, Ali was awarded a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame.
A People’s Man
Muhammad loved people and refused to cut himself off from the press or the public. His training camps were always open to visitors and rarely declined interview requests. Ali also only ever employed a single bodyguard and never hesitated from mingling with his admirers wherever he happened to be.
Once, back in the 1970s, in Dublin, some reporters discovered that Ali was flu-stricken and being attended by a doctor in his hotel bedroom when they explained that all they wanted was to talk to Ali for 10 minutes. "No chance," came the reply. "He never talks to anyone for less than an hour."
The boxer loved answering questions and being challenged by interviewers and held nothing back. It’s no surprise that they emerged two hours later, notebooks overflowing.
Through his courageous efforts both inside and outside the ring, Muhammad Ali’s status as a hero will forever be cemented in history. There is no doubt that he is truly “one of the greatest” there ever was.