Muhammad Ali - The Greatest

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In the summer of 1960, a young man stood on a podium wearing a gold medal around his neck, while the “Star Spangled Banner” played. A champion stood, not knowing the nation’s view on athletes forever. It was the first glimpse for the man who would come to be known as the greatest.
Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was born in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17, 1942. Young Clay found boxing in 1954 after his bike was stolen at the Louisville Home Show. He reported the theft to local police officer, Joe Martin, and told him he would beat up whoever stole the bike. Martin laughed at the idea of such a small boy beating someone up, so he decided to train Clay. Martin, who also taught boxing to local youth at the Columbia Gym, taught the 89-pound Clay how to box during his teenage years. From that day on, Clay would show up every day at the gym like clockwork working on his skills.
By 1958, Clay had dropped out of high school with several amateur boxing titles, and by 1960, he was preparing to compete in the Olympics. In the gold-medal match for the light-heavyweight division, Clay faced Polish southpaw Zbigniew Pietrzykowski, and won the gold in three rounds. After the Olympics, Clay received a contract from the Louisville Sponsoring Group for $333 a month, plus a $10,000 signing bonus.
With no more money problems to worry about, Clay had more time to consider what was going on in the world around him. He paid heavy attention to the Civil Rights Movement and he wanted to be part of it. But it was very difficult for a young black man to be heard in the early 1960’s. The only group giving a voice to the “common man” was the Nation of Islam. In 1962, Clay drove to Detroit to hear the Nation of Islam’s leader, the honorable Elijah Muhammad, speak. He also met someone who would greatly influence his life, a man named Malcolm X.
Clay studied X’s teachings of Islam, but more so, Clay agreed with X’s view on how blacks were treated in the United States. Both Clay and X believed in complete in total segregation between blacks and whites living in America. “I’m no troublemaker. I don’t believe in forced integration. I know where I belong. I’m not going to force myself into anybody’s house.” Clay also advocated X’s criticism on the non-violent movement in the southern states.

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