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Muhammad and the "Ali Shuffle"
The black boy had a clear goal in mind when he first went to boxing training in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, in 1954. He wanted to punish the person who stole his bike from him. It was the decisive moment in the life of Cassius Clay, who became a well-known and successful boxer as Muhammad Ali.
Ali will be 65 years old on January 17th. But the "greatest", as he called himself and even sang about in a song, celebrates small and modest. Together with his wife Lonnie and close friends, he spends his special day at home in Phoenix. No reception, no TV gala, no boxing poses in front of photographers and cameras.
Parkinson's as a handicap
Millions of his fans around the world would love to celebrate with him. But more than 25 years of boxing with countless head hits have left their mark. Muhammad Ali has had Parkinson's disease since 1982. His movements are shaky, his voice is slurred and quiet.
In the boxing ring, however, he was always the loudspeaker. "I've shaken the world, I'm the greatest," he shouted into the microphone in 1964 after his first world title win against Sonny Liston. The 1.92 meter man had copied this show from a wrestler, who caused a sensation with the press and the audience.
But Clay's appearances initially failed to have an effect. The trade press didn't like the talented but high-handed newcomer to the heavyweight scene. After winning the gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Olympic Games as an amateur, the US champion also showed himself to be extremely self-confident with the professionals.
When Cassius Clay converted to Islam
"Tonight the cheeky Louisville chap is going to get stuck in the throat of his conceited boasting. That annoying, self-assured Cassius goes into battle with a small handicap. He can't box as well as he speaks," said Arthur Daley of the New York Times "before the title fight against Liston.
After six rounds, however, Clay cheered, who then dropped his "slave name", as he called himself, and converted to Islam. Since then his name has been Muhammad Ali. And this Muhammad Ali revolutionized his sport with his way of boxing.
The arms hung casually and provocatively at the side instead of covering the upper body. The legs were as fast as the fists. His dancing leg combinations, the "Ali-Shuffle", made everything he did seem easy. "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" was his motto in the ring.
In 1967, Ali lost his world title and boxing license. Not because of a defeat in the ring, but because of the condemnation of the Vietnam War. "I will not deal with this Viet Cong," he justified his refusal to do military service. He was then stripped of his boxing crown.
The legendary fights
Ali was only allowed to box again in 1970. A year later he fought the first of three legendary fights that made him and his opponents world famous. In the "fight of the century" Joe Frazier brought him the first defeat.
"Rumble in the Jungle" was the name of the game on October 30, 1974, when challenger Ali and world champion George Foreman faced each other in Kinshasa. Favorite Foreman had won all 40 previous fights, 37 of them prematurely. However, like ten years earlier against Liston, Ali surprised everyone, especially his opponent.
"Is that all you can, George?" he asked Foreman after each hit. In the eighth round, Ali beat defending champion k. o. and got the world championship belt for the second time.
Bitter duel with Frazier
He defended this in the "Thrilla in Manila" on October 1, 1975 against Joe Frazier. This duel is still considered to be one of the most brutal in the history of heavyweight boxing. Because both opponents were bitter enemies not only in the ring.
"Frazier is too ugly to be world champion," said Ali. Frazier, in turn, who always called Ali Cassius Clay, announced that he would not only knock out his opponent, but also want to take his heart out.
When Frazier's eyes were swollen shut after the 14th round, the ring doctor broke off the fight. However, Ali could not be happy about his triumph because he suffered a circulatory collapse while in the ring.
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