Saturday, June 04, 2016

Farewell To The Greatest

Having been one of the most iconic figures in the history of American sports and having one of the most recognizable faces on the planet during the past century, former three-time World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali, known to one and all as "The Greatest" passed away on Friday at age 74.

Mr. Ali, who had been suffering from Parkinson's for decades, was admitted to a local Phoenix, Arizona hospital earlier in the week due to respiratory problems that were connected to his battle with Parkinson's.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, Mr. Ali won the Gold Medal at the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics.

In 1964, still as Cassius Clay, he defeated Sonny Liston to become the world heavyweight boxing champion.  He repeated the feat some fifteen months later, after converting to Islam and changing his name.

Citing religious beliefs, after being reclassified as draft-eligible, Muhammad refused induction into the US Army in 1967.

He was stripped of his title and his boxing license, and having remained inactive for four years, he successfully appealed his felony conviction, which was unanimously overturned 8-0 by the US Supreme Court.

Upon his return, he scored two tuneup victories, leading up to his 1971 fight against then-heavyweight champ Joe Frazier in a battle of unbeatens, billed as "The Fight of the Century."  Mr. Frazier recorded a unanimous 15-round victory, and Mr. Ali suffered his first defeat.

It was the first of three bouts between The Greatest and Smokin' Joe.

In 1973, he suffered a broken jaw in a loss to Ken Norton.

In 1974, Muhammad returned to the top of the heap by defeating George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) to reclaimed the world heavyweight title.

He evened the score with Mr. Frazier as he registered a scorecard victory in the second match, then took the series finale at Manila in 1975.

In 1978, he was upset by the upstart Leon Spinks, but then reclaimed the crown a few months later in a rematch at New Orleans.  It was Muhammad's final victory.

A couple of ill-fated comeback attempts followed (Larry Holmes in 1980, Trevor Berbick 1n 1981).  Some say the defeat at Mr. Holmes' hands, in which the ex-champ was pummeled for ten rounds before the fight was stopped has widely been seen as the catalyst for the condition that would progressively rob him of the ability to speak and move effectively.  This would lead to declining appearances in the spotlight that he always commanded and deserved.

As mentioned earlier, Mr. Ali

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