Rest in peace Muhammad Ali. Know that your legacy will continue to be bright and electric for a long time to come. He was known by many names, Cassius Clay (his birth name), The Champ, Louisville Lips, and of course, The Greatest! His fame goes well beyond the boxing ring and he is known worldwide. He fought his last bout on December 11, 1981 against Trevor Berbick, but his iconic life continued for 35 more years until he passed on June 3, 2016. There are many stories known about this man. From his converting to Muslim, to being found guilty of draft evasion, to the famous ‘Thrilla in Manila’ fight with Joe Frazier in 1975. Ever the charismatic showman, Ali was an entertainer, both in and out of the ring. His interviews were just as well liked as his fights. By now everyone is familiar with his trademark, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” comment. The Champ was by no means a perfect man, he had his struggles and flaws, just like we all do. Mr. Ali is no longer with us, but let’s honor him with 5 Random Facts about the man himself.
[Editor’s Note: To further honor his legacy, we will be predating this article to June 3, the calendar day he joined the ranks of the immortal.]
5. Racing the Bus to School
He took up boxing at the age of 12 and he found creative ways to train. While in high school, he wouldn’t take the school bus to school, he would instead race it. From Shirlee Smith, a high school classmate, “Every time the bus would stop to pick up kids, he would pass us up. Then we’d pass him up. Everybody on the bus would be laughing and teasing him. He was training at that time, and we were just having fun. But he was focused on what he wanted.”
4. He Was A Magician
The Champ was a fan of magic and he also knew how to perform a few tricks himself. Some of the tricks he hid up his sleeve (maybe a pun intended) were being able to flip over a key while in his palm, making a scarf disappear, and he did a levitating trick that was so convincing that even David Copperfield himself said it was “classic”.
3. Performing on Broadway
Ever the showman, in 1969 Ali performed on Broadway in the musical BUCK WHITE. At the time he was banned from boxing and he needed money to support his family (sounds like a starving artist to me). The show did not do well and only lasted for seven performances, but I wonder how many boxers can say they sang on Broadway?
2. Saving A Jumper
“Saving a life is more important to me than winning a world championship.” That was the quote Ali gave after he talked down a 21 year old man who was threatening to kill himself. Back in 1981 Los Angeles, the young man was on a ninth floor fire escape. Ali happened to be across the street at the time of the incident and he offered to try talking to the young man. The champ spent 30 minutes talking with the man and was able to talk him down. He even gave him a ride to the hospital in his Rolls-Royce limo.
1. It All Started with A Stolen Bike
At the age of 12, a young Cassius Clay had his prized possession stolen, his red Schwinn bicycle. Angry and in tears, he ended up in the gym of police officer Joe Martin. Martin gave the young Cassius a police report and a gym application and became the future champ’s first boxing trainer. It only took six weeks before Ali had his first ever boxing match, a split decision win over Ronny O’Keefe.