By Our Reporter
Mohammed Ali’s original name was Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. It was when Ali joined the Nation of Islam that he changed his name.
He began training at 12 years old, when a Louisville police officer and boxing coach Joe E. Martin, encountered the 12-year-old fuming over a thief taking his bicycle. He told the officer he was going to “whup” the thief. The officer told him he had better learn how to box first.
Clay made his amateur boxing debut in 1954 and his professional debut on October 29, 1960, winning a six-round decision over Tunney Hunsaker.
At the age of 22, he won the world heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston in a stunning upset in 1964.
In 1967, Ali refused conscription into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War. This eventually got him arrested and later found guilty of draft evasion charges. He was stripped of his boxing title, and did not fight again for nearly four years—losing a time of peak performance in an athlete’s career. In 1971, his conviction was overturned; he had appealed his loss, working his way up to the Supreme Court.
Ali’s actions as a conscientious objector to the war made him an icon for the larger counterculture generation.
Ali was married four times and had seven daughters and two sons. His first wife was Sonji Roi(August 14, 1964-January 10, 1966). His second was Belinda Boyd, who converted to Islam like her husband and changed her name to Khalilah Ali(August 17 1967-June 1977). His third marriage was with Veronica Porsche(1975-1986). His fourth was with Yolanda (“Lonnie”) Williams, who had being friends with him since 1964, they got married on November 19th 1986.
He had two other daughters, Miya and Khaliah, from extramarital relationships.
Ali converted from the Nation of Islam sect to mainstream Sunni Islam in 1975. Later in his life, he embraced the spiritual teachings of Universal Sufism founder Inayat Khan.
Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome in 1984, a disease that commonly results from head trauma from activities such as boxing.
He wrote several best-selling books about his career, including The Greatest: My Own Story and The Soul of a Butterfly.