Ten Things You Probably Didn't Know About Muhammad Ali

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website.

 Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) was the greatest boxer ever to lift a glove. Heavyweight boxing, without his amazing presence, is nowadays dull and almost completely uninteresting. Can anyone name the current heavyweight champion of the world? Ali turns 71 today, and in his honor, here are ten facts about "The Greatest."

1. He never turns down an autograph request.

As a young boy, Cassius Clay asked his idol, boxer Sugar Ray Robinson for an autograph. Robinson rudely told the boy "I don't got time." Young Cassius never forgot how hurt he was by Robinson's rejection. To this day, he has never once turned down a request for an autograph. He even has a special P.O. box for anyone who wants his autograph.

2. He used to race the school bus.

As a kid growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, Cassius didn't ride the bus to school like other kids. Instead of riding, Cassius would literally race the bus to school every morning.

3. A stolen bicycle started his boxing career.

Why did Cassius Clay become a boxer? As a 12-year-old boy, he was given a beautiful new bicycle as a gift. The bicycle was stolen, and when Cassius went to the local police department to report the theft, he met officer Joe Martin. Martin introduced Cassius to the world of boxing, and this was the beginning of his boxing career. Also Cassius vowed that he was "going to whip whoever stole his bike," but the stolen bicycle never turned up.

4. He only wore Elvis' robe once.

Elvis Presley gave Ali a boxing robe as a gift, with the words "The People's Champion" inscribed on the back. Ali wore it to his next fight, but he lost. He never wore the robe to fight again, thinking it was bad luck.

5. He threw away his gold medal.

Young Cassius Clay won a gold medal as a light heavyweight at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Later, upon returning to the United States, Clay was refused service at a small diner because of his race. Clay walked out of the diner and threw his gold medal (which he wore all the time) off a bridge and into the Ohio River. He claimed he didn't want to wear a medal in a country where he couldn't be served.

6. He rode in the Tournament of Roses Parade.

In 1988, Ali rode on a float in the Tournament of Roses Parade. The float commemorated the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.

7. He record a record album and a single.

In 1963, the 21-year-old Clay recorded a record of Ben E. King's song "Stand By Me." The record was released in early 1964 and hit #102 on the charts. The single was from the Columbia album he recorded that year called I Am The Greatest. I Am The Greatest was mostly a spoken-word album, with the sound of a bell separating each individual sequence.

8. He was KOed by Kent Green.

Want a good bar bet? In over 110 amateur fights, Cassius Clay was only knocked out once. Who KOed Clay? Kent Green is the only boxer to knock out Cassius Clay, defeating him in the third round on a technical knockout. Green's record as a pro boxer was 14 and 2.

9. Ali helped give us Rocky.

In 1975, Ali fought a little-known boxer named Chuck Wepner ("The Bayonne Bleeder"). Ali was a heavy favorite, and he did win, but it took him the full 15 rounds to get the decision. Wepner's courage in going the full distance with the famous world champion inspired a young, unknown writer/actor named Sylvester Stallone to write the screenplay for his classic film Rocky. Rocky's opponent in the film, Apollo Creed, was based on Ali.  

10. Ali has quite a show business resume.

Ali has starred as himself in four motion pictures. In December of 1969, he had the lead in a Broadway show called Buck White. A 21-year-old Cassius Clay was actually interviewed by Jerry Lewis on the biggest flop of Lewis' career, the ill-fated talk show The Jerry Lewis Show in 1963. The Lewis-Clay interview is a fairly solemn, unfunny affair, especially considering the two such colorful personalities. The Jerry Lewis Show was cancelled after a handful of episodes shortly after Clay's appearance.

"The Story Of Muhammad Ali" by Udi Verma & Paul Lane
(YouTube link)

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That was before Ali converted to traditional Islam which has absolutely nothing to do with the Nation Of Islam (NOI). It was Malcolm X who made Ali think about his association with the NOI. Malcolm X went to the pilgrimage in Makkah and saw people of all colours wearing the same clothes and mixing with each other as equals. After experiencing this Malcom X could no longer believe in the superiority of one race over another or that races should be segregated. At first Ali was skeptical but eventually he followed Malcolm X's example. And as for Obama, Ali has been seen with Obama many times just google Ali and Obama. There's even a famous Vanity Fair cover featuring both of them.
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Ali is the only true Champion in my generation. He is still referred to as "Champ" when people address him and it's well deserved and he's earned it. My favorite Ali story is the Ernie Terrell one where Terrell refused to acknowledge Ali by his Muslim name and kept calling him Cassius Clay. When the two finally met in the ring, Ali came out and started landing punch after punch and yelling to him "What's my name? Say it. Ali. What's my name?" Terrell refused and took the punishment. At one point, Terrell appeared to be going down but Ali went over and lifted him up by the underarms and told him "You're not going down till you say my name. What's my name?" Finally in round 12, Terrell had enough and said the word "Ali. Your name is Ali". The referee immediately stopped the fight. True story. Great post Eddie. Great topic!! Ali is definitely one man I would like to meet.
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