THE GREATEST: Born Today, January 17, 1942: Cassius Clay, aka Muhammad Ali 

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Jerry Mitchell  writes: January 17, 1942: Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Muhammad Ali broke through racial barriers in the segregated South and became the best boxer in history, winning an Olympic gold medal in 1960 and the heavyweight championship in 1964. Three years, he was stripped of his title after he refused to be drafted into military service. In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction, and Ali fought again, winning back the heavyweight crown in 1974 when he defeated George Foreman. But the boxer formerly known as Cassius Clay is probably best remembered for his three matches against Joe Frazier. His boxing and his words became poetry, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Read the rest of this entry »


Muhammed Ali, 1942-2016

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“I’ve wrestled with alligators. I’ve tussled with a whale.
I done handcuffed lightning and thrown thunder in jail.
You know I’m bad. Just last week, I murdered a rock,
injured a stone, hospitalized a brick.
I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.”

— Muhammad Ali


‘The Greatest’: Muhammad Ali Dead at 74

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Acclaimed for his quick, dancing style as a fighter, Ali also blended a unique mix of political activism and personal conviction that won him international recognition outside of the ring.

Three-time heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali, who charmed millions with his wit and confidence in the ring and inspired many more with his commitment to humanitarian causes has died, according to the family spokesman. He was 74.

Ali had been hospitalized for a respiratory issue June 2. At the time, a rep said he was in fair condition.

One of the greatest fighters in the history of boxing, Ali retired in 1981 after losing to Trevor Berbick in his 61st career bout.

Soon thereafter, Ali — who doctors said had begun showing signs of sluggishness and neurological damage in the 1970s — began receiving treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

[Read the full story here, at ABC News]

Ali, who called himself “The Greatest,” was married four times and had nine children, including daughter Laila, who also became a professional boxer. Ali and his fourth wife, Yolanda “Lonnie” Williams, had been married since 1986.

Born Cassius Clay on Jan. 17, 1942, Ali first stepped in the ring at age 12 in his hometown of Louisville, Ky., after his bicycle was stolen and a police officer suggested he learn how to box. Ali went on to become one of the most successful athletes and revered public figures in history.

Acclaimed for his quick, dancing style as a fighter, Ali also blended a unique mix of political activism and personal conviction that won him international recognition outside of the ring.

After winning 100 of 108 amateur fights, Ali took home an Olympic gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. He later allegedly chucked the medal into a river after a waitress at a soda fountain in Louisville refused to serve him because he was black.

Weeks after the Olympics, Ali signed a lucrative contract and won his first pro bout on Oct. 29, 1960, against Tunney Hunsaker. Ali quickly ingratiated himself with the media with his boastful claims and fresh, stylish way of speaking. He told Sports Illustrated in 1961: “Most of them [other boxers] … can fight almost as good as I can. I’m just saying you never heard of them. And the reason for that is because they cannot throw the jive. Cassius Clay is a boxer who can throw the jive better than anybody.”

The brash, underdog Ali promised boxing fans he’d “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” against Sonny Liston.

At age 22, he stunned the larger Liston, beating the champ in seven rounds in Miami to win his first heavyweight title. In their next match in 1965, Ali floored Liston with a hard, quick blow minutes into the bout and retained his crown when the referee stopped the fight. Read the rest of this entry »


Joe Frazier Statue Rising in Philadelphia


Japan Lawmaker Kanji ‘Antonio’ Inoki Takes Sport Diplomacy to North Korea

japan diplomacy politicianA Japanese wrestler-turned-politician hopes his vision of “sports diplomacy” can repair his country’s fraught relationship with North Korea, as he prepares to host an extraordinary sporting event in Pyongyang.

And Kanji “Antonio” Inoki has form: he helped secure the release of Japanese hostages in Iraq in 1990 after impressing tyrant Saddam Hussein, and more recently used his old bouts with Pakistani japan-nork-sport-dwrestlers to foster goodwill between the South Asian country and his own.

Standing 1.9 metres (six feet three inches) tall, with a square jaw and a penchant for red scarves, Inoki is instantly recognisable on Japanese television, but is best known abroad for taking on world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in a zany wrestler-versus-boxer match in Tokyo in 1976.

The grappler also organised and competed in a “Sports and Cultural Festival for Peace” in Pyongyang in 1995, featuring bouts between Japanese and American pro wrestlers publicly staged for the first time in the reclusive country, with an ailing Ali as a guest.

Inoki’s latest venture will bring 21 combatants from Japan, the United States, France, Brazil and China to the “International Pro Wrestling Festival” at the North Korean capital’s 20,000-seat Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Stadium on August 30 and 31. Read the rest of this entry »


Ali, Frazier and the ‘Fight of the Century’: A Photographer Remembers

 Not published in LIFE. Muhammad Ali speaks to the press during a pre-fight weigh-in at Madison Square Garden in March 1971. John Shearer—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Not published in LIFE. Muhammad Ali speaks to the press during a pre-fight weigh-in at Madison Square Garden in March 1971. John Shearer—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Ben Cosgrov  writes:  After refusing to register for the draft in 1967 — at the very height of his career — 25-year-old Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight championship title and endured a forced layoff from the ring for three years. In 1971, after winning the appeal of his conviction and five-year prison sentence before the U.S. Supreme Court, the former champ returned to boxing, fighting a few bouts against lesser (albeit ranked) rivals before facing the title-holder, Philadelphia’s “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier.

Read the rest of this entry »