Above: Muhammed Ali and Joe DiMaggio wearing gold medals, Ellis Island, NY. Image by spirit of america / Shutterstock.com
On February 25, 1964, boxing legend Mohammad Ali fought his last fight under his real name, Cassius Clay, beating Sonny Liston to become the heavyweight champion of the world in Miami Beach. Following the fight, Clay announced that he was joining the Nation of Islam, the religious black power movement, and was henceforth to be known as Ali.
Ali – who famously declared himself to be “the Greatest” – was shot to international fame after Liston threw in the towel after just six rounds, becoming a household name and hero to millions. A fighter in all ways, Ali took advantage of his position of renown to protest all sorts of things, most notably the Vietnam War and racial segregation.
The HistoryMiami museum has marked the 50th anniversary of the fight with a month-long photo exhibition that includes some never-before-seen imagery. The Miami Beach Convention Centre, where the fight was held, also marked the occasion by having a plaque fixed at its entrance.
Crowned Sportsman of the Century by Sports Illustrated and Sports Personality of the Century by the BBC, Ali is probably the most famous boxer in the history of the sport.
Ali was also a consummate showman, positively basking in the limelight and reveling in his ability to be at once outlandish and provocative. Whichever it was, he was always entertaining. There’s no doubt about it, the man who floated like a butterfly but stung like a bee deserves his place as one of the greats, for his courage in the ring and for the courage of his convictions.
One of only a handful of athletes who, in the words of writer Joyce Carol Oates, was able to “define the terms of his public reputation” completely, Muhammad Ali will forever remain a stand out guy and a knockout human being in the public eye and imagination.
Hats off to you, Mr. Ali.