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Muhammad Ali – The Greatest Of All Time in Combat Sports Turns 70 Today

Eric Kowal
17 January 2012
The Greatest Of All Time Turns 70 - US Combat Sports

Add another epic milestone to the long list of accomplishments in the life of boxing legend Muhammad Ali.  Today, “The Greatest” celebrates his 70th birthday.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., he was known for his outlandish and often brash attitude.  Clay changed his named in 1964 after joining the Nation of Islam.

He was known as the greatest boxer of his time and quite arguably although he has been retired for a number of years he may still hold that recognition.

He was both a hero and a villain to many at the same time.  Refusing to join the United States military and often speaking out against the Vietnam War many called him a coward.

Ali would eventually be arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges; he was stripped of his boxing title, and his boxing license was suspended. He was not imprisoned, but did not fight again for nearly four years while his appeal worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

He was involved in some of the most historic boxing matches in history to include beating Sonny Liston, George Foreman and of course his trilogy for Joe Frazier.

Ali was well known for his unorthodox fighting style, which he described as "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee", and employing techniques such as the Ali Shuffle and the rope-a-dope.

He had a knack for hyping up a fight with pre-fight trash talk like no other ever could.  For mixed martial arts fans, one might compare him to today’s Chael Sonnen.

The list of awards and recognitions he received is as lengthy as a phone book but extremely noteworthy ones include winning the light heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Olympic Games in Italy and being the world heavyweight champion several times over.

Ali was named the Sportsman of the Century in 1999 by Sports Illustrated.  Besides being known as “the Greatest” he was also often referred to as “the People’s Champion.”

Famed Bouts

In one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, Ali regained his title on October 30, 1974 in Zaire, Africa by defeating then champion Foreman.  The bout was dubbed “The Rumble in the Jungle” by promoter Don King.

On October 1, 1975, Ali fought Frazier for the third time.  The fight was called “Thrilla in Manila” because it took place in the Philippines.

Ali famously remarked, "It will be a killa... and a chilla... and a thrilla... when I get the gorilla in Manila."

The fight lasted 14 grueling rounds in temperatures approaching 100 °F (38 °C). Ali won many of the early rounds, but Frazier staged a comeback in the middle rounds, while Ali lay on the ropes. By the late rounds, however, Ali had reasserted control and the fight was stopped when Frazier was unable to answer the bell for the 15th and final round (his eyes were swollen closed). Frazier's trainer, Eddie Futch, refused to allow Frazier to continue.


Ali defeated nearly every top heavyweight in his era, which has been called the golden age of heavyweight boxing.

In 1984 the champ faced his toughest opponent yet.  Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Syndrome, a disease to which those subject to severe head trauma, such as boxers, are many times more susceptible than average.

In 1991, Ali traveled to the middle east to meet with Saddam Hussein in an attempt to negotiate the release of American hostages.

Ali’s Legacy

As a world champion boxer and social activist, Ali has been the subject of numerous books, films and other creative works to include a biographical film starring Will Smith called “Ali.”

His professional boxing career totaled 21 years, far more than the average combat athlete to include both boxing and mixed martial arts.

He was the most famous man in the world, holding the world heavyweight title three times.

Today, Jan. 17, the world celebrates 70 years of Muhammad Ali.

Happy birthday champ.

Last Modified:
17 January 2012

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