Remembering boxing champion Muhammad Ali

By Don Rajael, CCNN Writer

Ali torch
Muhammad Ali, despite suffering from Parkinson’s, lights the 1996 Olympic torch in Atlanta.

Legendary heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali passed away on June 3rd, at the age of 74. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay on January 17th, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky, Ali began training to become a boxer at age 12.

When he was 22, Ali won the 1964 world heavyweight championship by defeating Sonny Liston in a dramatic victory that shocked many. He changed his name to Muhammad Ali after converting to Islam and preached racial pride for African Americans, stirring controversy.

His rebellious attitude also led Ali to resist entering military service, claiming his religious beliefs prevented him from fighting in the Vietnam War. He was arrested, found guilty of avoiding the military draft and lost his boxing titles as a result – a punishment he eventually overturned by appealing the ruling in the USA Supreme Court in 1971.

Ali went on to win the boxing championship title in 1974 and 1978 as well, earning the nickname of “The Greatest.” In 1981, he retired, devoting his time and resources to charity and inspiring others. He was diagnosed with  Parkinson’s in 1984, an incurable disease caused by the loss of nerve cells in the brain, which makes people lose control over their body’s movements – resulting in shaking, stiffness and slowness. Still, despite his illness, Ali lit up the world in 1996 by lighting the Olympic torch in Atlanta, inspiring millions and helping raise awareness. Among his most famous boxing quotes were “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” and “service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”