He was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky.
Beginning as a teenager, he won six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union national title, and the light heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.
Hallmarks of his style
As a public figure, he was voluble, a nonstop talker, and an unabashed self-promoter who spoke his mind. As a boxer, two of his techniques were the “Ali shuffle,” a combination of lightningspeed footwork with constant bobbing movement, and the “ropea-dope,” which involves assuming a protected stance of lying against the ropes, allowing the energy of the opponent’s punches to be absorbed by the ropes' elasticity rather than the boxer's body; the idea is to cause the opponent to "punch himself out" and make mistakes which can then be exploited in a counterattack. Ali famously described his style as “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. You can’t hit what you can’t see.”
Major championship matches
1964 – Against Sonny Liston, whom he upset as heavyweight champion of the world 1971 – First match against Joe Frazier, at Madison Square Garden in New York City (“The Fight of the Century”)
1974 – Against George Foreman, in Zaire (the “Rumble in the Jungle”) 1975 – Against Joe Frazier, in the Philippines (the “Thrilla in Manila”)
- Muhammad Ali - Quotes, Stats & Family - Biography
Take a look at the life of the late heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who, at the height of his career, became a Golden Gloves winner and Olympic medalist. Learn more at Biography.com.