Legend, cultural figure, and the champion would be the best words to describe the athlete that was Muhammad Ali. The larger than life heavyweight boxing champ was a wonder both inside and outside the ring.
Ali came up with the popular phrase, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” He was known for taunting his opponents with razor-sharp one-liners in the boxing ring. While you might know this fact about him, we bet there still a lot that you don’t know.
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It’s time to change that! Here are five rare facts about Muhammad Ali’s life journey and believes that you need to know.
1. Ali’s Birth Name Was Cassius Marcellus Clay
When born, Muhammad Ali was named Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. by his father. The original Clay was a white abolitionist. He was a politician who had published an anti-slavery newspaper. Moreover, he also emancipated all the slaves he inherited from his father.
Before we came to know the fighter as Muhammad Ali, he changed his name to Cassius X. It was after he had defeated Liston, he had confirmed to the press that he had converted to Islam. In his statement, he said that he had renounced his surname and would now be known as Cassius X. This was until he got the name Muhammad Ali on March 6th, 1964.
2. He Was Banned From Boxing For Several Years
Ali refused the U.S. military to serve in the Vietnam war that raged in 1967. His denial was based on religious beliefs and reasons. As a result, the boxing champion was arrested after which the New York State Athletic Commission suspended his boxing license and took away his title.
Ali was then convicted of drafting evasion. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison and was fined $10,00. While his conviction was appealed, Ali remained free. A few years later, the New York State Supreme Court reinstated his license and the U.S Supreme court also overturned his conviction in a unanimous decision.
3. He Starred in A Broadway Musical
During the time he was banned from the ring, Ali took the stage on a Broadway musical. Yep, that’s right! The heavyweight champion appeared in the title role of a musical called ‘Buck White.’ Ali’s Paybill bio stated that he is now “appealing his five-year prison conviction and $10,000 fine for refusing to enter the armed services on religious grounds.
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The Big Time Buck White role that he has accepted is much like the life he lives off stage in reality”. The production opened for audiences in December 1969 inside New York’s George Abbott Theatre. Ali’s career as a Broadway star was short-lived as the production closed after just seven performances in four nights. His acting and singing skills, however, received great praise. The New York Times reviewer wrote, “He sings with a pleasant slightly impersonal voice, acts without embarrassment and moves with innate dignity. He does himself proud.”
4. He Was A Real-Life Superhero
DC Comics published an oversized comic book titled Superman vs Muhammad Ali. And you know what? In this book, Ali defeats Superman and saves the world. Don’t second guess yourself; you read it right! Ali defeats the man of steel! You know what, even in real-life the boxing champ saved a man’s life. It was in 1981 that a man threatened to jump from a building in L.A. One of Ali’s friends saw what was happening and called the boxer, who came rushing and saved the man’s life by talking him down from the ledge.
5. He Fought for America to Understand Islam
After converting to Islam, Ali felt that his religion was misunderstood in his country. He felt it was his duty to explain Islam in the United States; he didn’t want people to fear it. In 1987, he visited Pakistan. During one of his speeches, he said, “America is a beautiful country. All peoples, all races, religions are in America, but the power structure and the news media present a bad picture of Muslims,” he said.
“My fight in the boxing ring was only to make me popular. I never enjoyed boxing. I never enjoyed hurting people, knocking people down. But this world only recognizes power, wealth, and fame … And after hearing the powerful message of Islam, and seeing the beautiful unity in Muslims, after seeing how the children are raised, after seeing the procedures of prayer, after seeing the way we eat, the way we dress, just the whole attitude of Islam, it was so beautiful — I said this is something more people have to know about, this is something more people would accept and join if they really understood.
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Whether they be black or white, red, yellow, or brown, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist or atheist, if he hears Islam, reads the Koran, hears the plain truth about Muhammad, he’ll have to be affected in one way or the other,” he continued.
These were the five rare and incredible facts that everyone needs to know about the heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammad Ali. The legend lives in our hearts today and always even after his death at the age of 74.
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