Ali is a former American boxer and three-time World Heavyweight Champion, who is widely considered one of the greatest heavyweight championship boxers. As an amateur, he won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division 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. Originally known as Cassius Clay, Ali changed his name after joining the Nation of Islam in 1964, subsequently converting to Islam in 1975 and more recently to Sufism. In 1967, Ali refused to be conscripted 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. Nicknamed “The Greatest”, Ali was involved in several historic boxing matches. Notable among these are three with rival Joe Frazier and one with George Foreman, whom he beat by knockout to win the world heavyweight title for the second time. He suffered only five losses (four decisions and one TKO by retirement from the bout) with no draws in his career, while amassing 57 wins (39 knockouts and 18 decisions). 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. He was also known for his pre-match hype, where he would “trash talk” opponents on television and in person some time before the match, often with rhymes. These personality quips and idioms, along with an unorthodox fighting technique, made him a cultural icon. In later life, Ali developed Parkinson’s disease. In 1999, Ali was crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC. On the 17th of August 2009, it was voted unanimously by the town council of Ennis, Co Clare to make Ali the first Freeman of Ennis. Ennis was the birthplace of Ali’s great grandfather before he emigrated to the U.S. in the 1860s, before eventually settling in Kentucky. On September 1, 2009, Ali visited the town of Ennis and at a civic reception he received the honour of the freedom of the town. As a world champion boxer and social activist, Ali has been the subject of numerous books, films and other creative works. In 1963, he released an album of spoken word on Columbia Records titled I am the Greatest! He has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated on 37 different occasions, second only to Michael Jordan. He appeared in the documentary film Black Rodeo (1972) riding both a horse and a bull.
His autobiography The Greatest: My Own Story, written with Richard Durham, was published in 1975. In 1977 the book was adapted into a film called The Greatest, in which Ali played himself and Ernest Borgnine played Angelo Dundee. When We Were Kings, a 1996 documentary about the Rumble in the Jungle, won an Academy Award, and the 2001 biopic Ali garnered an Oscar nomination for Will Smith’s portrayal of the lead role. For contributions to the entertainment industry, Muhammed Ali was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6801 Hollywood Boulevard. On August 17, 2009, it was voted unanimously by the town council of Ennis, Co Clare to make Ali the first Freeman of Ennis. Ennis was the birthplace of Ali’s great grandfather before he emigrated to the U.S. in the 1860s, before eventually settling in Kentucky. On September 1, 2009, Ali visited the town of Ennis and at a civic reception he received the honour of the freedom of the town.
Photo: Getting Ali to the ring in Croke Park in 1972.
Photo: Muhammad Ali Playing Hurling. Taken at Croke Park on the 19th of July 1972.
When Ali Came to Ireland, tells the story of how Butty Sugrue, a circus strongman from Killorglin, Co Kerry, pulled off a huge sporting coup for Ireland in July 1972. He arranged a fight in Croke Park between ‘The Greatest’ Muhammad Ali and ex-con Al ‘Blue’ Lewis.