Ali, Muhammad (məhămˈəd älēˈ) [key], 1942–, American boxer, b. Louisville, Ky. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, he was a 1960 Olympic gold medalist. Shortly after upsetting Sonny Liston in 1964 to become world heavyweight champion, he formalized his association with the Nation of Islam (see Black Muslims) and adopted the Muslim name Muhammad Ali.
Ali's flamboyant boxing style and outspoken stances on social issues made him a controversial figure during the turbulent 1960s and early 1970s. After beating Liston, he defended his title nine times, brashly proclaiming himself the "greatest of all time." In 1967 he refused induction into the armed services and became a symbol of resistance to the Vietnam War. The boxing establishment stripped Ali of his title and prevented him from fighting until the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971 upheld his draft appeal on religious grounds. Before retiring in 1981 Ali compiled a 56–5 record and became the only man to ever win the heavyweight crown three times. His fights with Joe Frazier and George Foreman were among boxing's biggest events.
In retirement, Ali has remained one of the most recognized world figures. The 1984 revelation that he suffered from Parkinson's disease renewed debate over the negative effects of boxing. His appearance at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, to light the Olympic flame, moved an international audience.
See T. Hauser, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times (1991); D. Remnick, King of the World (1998).
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