Name at birth: Cassius Marcellus ClayCharismatic, outspoken and nicknamed "The Greatest," heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali was the dominant heavyweight fighter of the 1960s and 1970s. In later years he became an icon of African-American pride and one of the most famous athletes in the world. A fighter of exceptional speed, cunning and flair, Muhammad Ali won the world heavyweight title on three separate occasions over a span of 15 years. He was born Cassius Clay, and under that name he won a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. He claimed his first title by defeating Sonny Liston in 1964; his brash confidence was on display before the fight when he said of his fighting style, "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can't hit what the eyes can't see." Later that year, Clay joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Citing his Islamic faith, Ali refused to serve in the U.S. military during the war in Vietnam; his heavyweight title was revoked and he was sentenced to five years in prison for draft evasion. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the conviction in 1971, and Ali returned to boxing. He had a long-running rivalry with fellow heavyweight Joe Frazier, whom he fought three times: Ali lost the first match in 1971, but won rematches in 1974 and 1975. Muhammad Ali also defeated George Foreman in the famous 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle" held in Kinshasa, Zaire. Though his skills declined markedly in later years, Ali kept boxing until 1981, when he retired with a record of 56-5 in his 61 professional fights. In later years, Muhammad Ali suffered from Parkinson?s Disease, a motor-skills illness which slowed his movement and left him mostly unable to speak in public. Still, he remained one of the world's best-known and most popular athletes; his 1996 appearance to light the ceremonial flame at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta was an especially nostalgic occasion. Muhammad Ali was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 by President George W. Bush, who called Ali "a fierce fighter and a man of peace."
Muhammad Ali won his three heavyweight titles by defeating Sonny Liston (1964), George Foreman (1974) and Leon Spinks (1978)? Muhammad Ali?s managers sometimes referred to him as GOAT ? the Greatest Of All Time? Sprinter Wilma Rudolph won three gold medals at the 1960 Summer Olympics, the same games at which Muhammad Ali won his boxing gold.
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