Historical Figures: Muhammed Ali

Muhammed Ali is known as one of the greatest boxers to have ever lived, but he was more than that. Ali was a controversial figure who was widely regarded for his political, religious and racial values, all of which led to him being name BBC's Sports Personality of the Century.

Muhammed Ali

Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr, was born on January 17th, 1942. Twenty-two years later he won the world heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston, providing the biggest upset of 1964. This early rise to prominence cemented him as a strong boxing figure and he went on to win fights against rival Joe Frazier and George Foreman, fights which have gone down as some of the best in boxing history.

Ali was a follower of the Nation of Islam, and shared their beliefs. He attended meetings but kept his involvement hidden from the public due to his public persona. Ali met Malcolm X in 1962 and the political activist soon became his spiritual and political mentor, causing a story in a local newpaper to publish that he had joined the Nation of Islam, a story which nearly caused his first fight against Sonny Liston.

At first, Clay wasn't allowed to join the Nation of Islam because of his boxing career, yet, when he won the world championships, they finally accepted him as a member, which leader Elijah Muhammed announcing Clay would be renamed Muhammad Ali. Muhammed stood for 'one who is worthy of praise' and Ali meaning a rightly guided Caliph, a Muslim figure who shows good examples of Muslim piety.

In 1967 Ali refused to conscript to the U.S. military because of his strong religious beliefs and the fact he was against the Vietnam War. Due to this he was arrested and stripped of his world champion title. It took four years for him to get his conviction overturned, during which he took part in no boxing matches. Regardless, in 1974, Ali faced George Foreman in the heavyweight champion title fight, one barely anyone thought he could win. All this aside, the 32 year old Ali out-thought his opponent, dropping him in the eighth round. The fight was historically nicknamed 'The Rumble in the Jungle'.

Muhammed Ali is unquestionably the most celebrated boxer in history, defeating every one of his competitors in the 'golden age' of heavyweight boxing. He is one of three boxers ever to be named 'Sportsman of the Year' by sports illustrated, has won 'Fighter of the Year' more times than any other fighter and been involved in more 'Fights of the Year' that any other fighter.

In 1999, Muhammed Ali was voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Century, collecting more votes than all other 5 contenders for the award. In all, Muhammed Ali is a true sporting icon and one not to forget.