ALI

ALI

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American boxer, one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport. Colorful, talented, and sometimes controversial, Ali entertained fans and intimidated opponents. His boxing style involved graceful footwork and powerful jabs. He also became famous for bragging about himself. For example, he once described his skills by saying that he could "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee," In 1978 Ali became the first boxer to win the world heavyweight championship title three different times. Ali was born in Louisville, Kentucky. His original name was Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. He began boxing at the age of 12, after his bicycle was stolen and a police officer suggested that the young Clay should learn how to box. By age 18 Clay had amassed a record of 108 wins and 8 losses in amateur competition. This included six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, the 1959 International Golden Gloves heavyweight title, and a gold medal as the light heavyweight champion at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Italy. After returning from the Olympics, Clay turned professional. He fought his first professional bout on October 29, 1960, and defeated Tunney Hunsaker. As Clay continued to win over the next few years, he became more vocal about his successes, and he was given the nicknames "Louisville Lip" and "Mighty Mouth." By 1964 Clay had recorded 19 professional wins and had earned a chance to challenge heavyweight champion Sonny Liston. At 22 years of age, he was considered a serious underdog. Nonetheless, he predicted that he would knock out Liston in the eighth round. Clay needed even less time to make good on his claim. His jab-and-dance technique tired Liston, who failed to come out of his corner at the start of the seventh round. Clay was crowned the new world heavyweight champion and proclaimed himself "The Greatest."
In 1964 Clay converted to Islam, joined the Nation of Islam (see Black Muslims), and assumed the name Muhammad Ali. In 1965 he defended his title in a rematch against Liston. The bout lasted only 2 minutes 12 seconds. During the first round Ali caught Liston with a hard blow, so quick that it was dubbed the "phantom punch" because few fans saw it.

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Liston fell, but Ali did not go to the corner of the ring, as the rules required. The referee therefore did not finish counting Liston out, and finally Liston recovered and stood up. But then the fight was called in Ali’s favor. Six months later, Ali successfully defended his title against former champion Floyd Patterson. Ali defended his title five more times before 1967.
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