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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Black History Month Profiles: Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali, circa 1970.

Muhammad Ali, circa 1970.

Muhammad Ali is a heroic symbol staring down from posters. Divisive during his heyday, his post-retirement accomplishments have been overshadowed by past stardom. 
Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was born on Jan. 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. A 12-year-old Clay went looking for retribution over a stolen bicycle and a boxing coach suggested he toughen up. 
The young talent won the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions in the light-heavyweight class six years later and soon after brought home an Olympic gold in 1960.
As a boxer he relied on powerful jabs, quick footwork that belied his 6-foot-3-inch frame, and psychologically battered his opponents with insults whilst boasting his own abilities. 
The 1960s were iconic and controversial for the “Louisville Lip.” In 1964 he took the Heavyweight Champion of the World title from Sonny Liston. His braggadocio and outspoken advocacy was uncommon for a public athlete.
“You know I’m bad, I’ve murdered a rock, hospitalized a brick,/I’m so bad I make medicine sick.”
Clay made headlines by joining the Nation of Islam in 1964, changing his name to Muhammad Ali. In 1967 he refused the Vietnam War draft and was temporarily taken to court by the Department of Justice.
He was a champion, a draft dodger, a freedom icon, or a narcissist, depending upon the opinion.
Career-defining fights of the 1970s include ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’, ‘The Fight of the Century,’ and the ‘Thrilla in Manila.’ 
He held the title of Heavyweight Champion for a record three times.
In retirement, Ali has leveraged his international stardom, bringing aid to countries in need, engaging in philanthropy for Parkinson’s research, a disease he’s suffered from since 1984.
President George Bush awarded Ali the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. that same year the Muhammad Ali Center opened, preserving the former boxer’s history and ideals. 
“I wanted more than a building to house my memorabilia. I wanted a place that would inspire people to be the best that they could be at whatever they chose to do, and to encourage them to be respectful of one another.” 
Animated everywhere in the many video recordings and images is an invincible personality. Immortal.