On this day in 1964, the Kentucky boxer known to all as Cassius Clay, changed his name to Muhammad Ali as he accepted Islam and rejected Christianity. “I believe in the religion of Islam. I believe in Allah and in peace…I’m not a Christian anymore.”
Muhammad Ali would go on to become a three-time World Heavyweight Champion, who is widely considered one of the greatest heavyweight championship boxers of all time. As an amateur, he won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.
In 1967, Ali refused to be inducted into the U.S. military based on his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. He was arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges, stripped of his boxing title, and his boxing license was suspended. He was not imprisoned, but did not fight again for nearly four years while his appeal worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was successful.
Ali was involved in several historic boxing matches against Joe Frazier and George Foreman. He suffered only five losses while amassing 56 wins. In 1999, Ali was crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated.
Smokin’ Joe Frazier was an Olympic and World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, active from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s. Frazier was a popular champion, reprising himself in cameo roles in several Hollywood films, and professionally is perhaps most famous for his trilogy of Heavyweight Championship fights with Muhammad Ali.
Frazier had a bullying fighting style, depending on bobbing, weaving and power punching. He is perhaps most famous for his vicious left hooks.
Muhammad Ali was a three-time World Heavyweight Champion, who is widely considered one of the greatest heavyweight championship boxers of all time. He won a gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. After turning professional, he went on to become the first boxer to win the lineal heavyweight championship three times.
Ali was involved in several historic boxing matches. Notable among these are three with rival Joe Frazier. Ali was well known for his unorthodox fighting style, which he described as “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”, and employing techniques such as the rope-a-dope.