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Muhammad Ali's Childhood: The Untold Story of the Making of a Legend

Kashmira Lad Mar 22, 2020
Muhammad Ali, a.k.a the Greatest, was an iconic figure in the field of boxing in addition to being a social activist and philanthropist. The childhood of this three-time World Heavyweight Champion gives a fascinating glimpse into the shaping of his further years.

Did You Know

Originally named as Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., the Greatest joined the Nation of Islam in 1964, and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
I hated every minute of training, but I said, "Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion."
- Muhammad Ali
One of the most well-known athletes in the world, Muhammad Ali was an inspirational figure. He had a very illustrious career in boxing. One of the toughest competitors in the boxing ring, this dynamic personality was awe-inspiring for many. Here, we shall take a peek at his early life and the story behind his love for boxing.
Birth Name : Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. (named after his father)
Date of Birth : January 17, 1942
Died on : June 3, 2016
Place of Birth : Louisville, Kentucky
Father : Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. (painted billboards and signs)
Mother : Odessa Grady Clay (housewife)
Brother : Rudolph "Rudy" Clay a.k.a Rahman Ali

The Early Years

Muhammad Ali's success story began with a simple incident. In 1954, when Ali was only 12 years old, his bike was stolen while he was with a friend at the Columbia Auditorium. Boiling with rage, young Ali encountered Joe Martin, a police officer.
It was Martin who first advised him to learn boxing before he thought about fighting with anybody for revenge! The officer who was also a boxing coach directed the young boy towards the sport that Ali went on to master.

Achievements as a Youngster

As a teenager, Ali practiced with unmatched fervor and took his training very seriously. His constant practice set him off from others. He also paid special attention to his diet. Talent and hard work helped him to bag numerous medals even before he turned 18.
Coveted titles won by this great athlete as a youngster are -
  • 2 National Golden Gloves titles
  • 6 Kentucky Golden Gloves titles
  • Amateur Athletic Union National title
  • Light Heavyweight gold medal in 1960 at the Summer Olympics, Rome

The Controversy

With 100 wins in his amateur career, Muhammad Ali returned home to Louisville and was shocked when he was subjected to unfair treatment. Ali and his friend were refused service at a "whites-only" restaurant.
It is said that after this incident, he threw his gold medal into the Ohio River. However, some believe that Ali kept the medal until the gold rubbed off, while some claim that he lost the medal. Nevertheless, a replacement medal was presented to him at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Muhammad Ali's childhood was thus not ordinary. It was the beginning that laid the foundation of a success story to inspire many others around the world.