Muhammad Ali is widely heralded as being arguably the greatest boxer of all time and one of the iconic sports athletes in the country over the last several decades. Beyond being a tremendous boxer, Ali was also outspoken as a civil rights activist that further built his incredible legacy that will continue to be held in high regard for years to come. Ali‘s boxing career extended over two decades, where he had many memorable fights and moments along the way. However, there hasn’t much highlighted in regards to why he picked up the craft in the first place.
Muhammad Ali’s career
Ali put forth an incredible career that saw him build his legacy in the ring behind some tremendous performances against notable boxers.
Although he had three years of his career lost due to refusing to be drafted into the military that cost him his boxing license, the Hall of Famer came back to put forth many more exhilarating fights. That included his trilogy of bouts against Joe Frazier and “The Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman. He wasn’t the same fighter at the end of his career dropping three out of his last four fights, but that hasn’t overshadowed his remarkable impact in the sports world that extended beyond his craft.
He was an electrifying athlete that had the trash-talking to back up his ability in the ring. Ali was the complete package that many could argue he was as entertaining away from the squared circle because of his banter and outspokenness that made him a legendary sports figure and icon that was well ahead of his time.
Ali’s decision to pick up a pair of boxing gloves all began with an interesting path that put forth his illustrious career.
A stolen bicycle started Muhammad Ali’s boxing career
Long before Ali changed his name from Cassius Clay, he had one particular incident that sparked his passion for boxing.
When he was 12 years old in 1954, growing up in Louisville, Kentucky Clay had a life-changing experience after he rode his new red and white Schwinn model bicycle to the Columbia Auditorium. Later, he had discovered that someone had stolen it that led him to inform a police officer Joe Martin, who was located at the Auditorium down in the basement.
Clay had informed Martin, who was a boxing trainer with his own gym, that he wanted to beat up who stole his bicycle, which led the latter to invite him to come back around his gym and learn about boxing. Ali later recalled the moment that changed in his life in his autobiography entitled
The Greatest: My Own Story,” written with Richard Durham. (H/T Ira Berkow of the New York Times)
”I ran downstairs, crying, but the sights and sounds and the smell of the boxing gym excited me so much that I almost forgot about the bike,” Ali wrote. ”There were about 10 boxers in the gym, some hitting the speed bag, some in the ring, sparring, some jumping rope. I stood there, smelling the sweat and rubbing alcohol, and a feeling of awe came over me. One slim boy shadowboxing in the ring was throwing punches almost too fast for my eyes to follow.”
That experience helped get started Clay’s legendary all from the initial guidance of police offer, who wound up becoming his first boxing trainer.
Muhammad Ali’s legacy
There has never been a boxer or professional athlete like Ali during his during, before, or after his time in the ring.
He was a one-of-a-kind sports icon that had it all the confidence, charisma, and the impeccable skill to back it all up. Ali was well ahead of his time and a steady beacon of light during a tough time in the country internally.
That has made any story around his upbringing, career, or life in general that much more appealing. Ali was larger than life and had his legacy is something that will only continue to grow stronger as time rolls along.