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Greatest of All Time, he truly was. Muhammad Ali might have passed away, but his legacy will ever live on. He set some of the finest records in the history of the boxing game.
Ali’s career wasn’t without lows, but ultimately, he overcame them to become an iconic figure not only in sports but in politics as an activist for the civil rights movement.
Follow us as we take you through his life journey as well as shed some lights on his personal life including details about his family; spouse and children.
Muhammad Ali Biography
Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was the name given to Ali at his birth on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. However, in 1964 he would convert to Islam and adopt the name Muhammad Ali citing reasons being that his former name was his slave name.
Ali never initially aspired to become a boxer until an encounter he had as a 12-year-old when some bully made away with his bicycle.
An enraged Ali was approached by a police officer named Joe E. Martin who told him that he could channel that rage into becoming a boxer so nothing of sort could ever happen to him again. Ali gladly accepted and began training under officer Martin.
It wasn’t long until his boxing skills began to earn him some recognition. He earned $4 for his first fight televised on local TV. Fueled by the passion to make more money, Ali sought to become even better at the sports. However, he didn’t neglect his education; he graduated from Kentucky’s Central High School in 1958.
Ali went on to stage an impressive amateur career recording 100 wins and 3 losses. During the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Ali further established himself by winning the gold medal in the light heavyweight division. He was 18 years old at the time. Later in 1960, Ali went professional.
For the first three years of his pro career, Ali remained undefeated recording 19 wins including 15 KO’s. His first breakthrough as a pro boxer came in 1964 when as an underdog with the odds against his favor, he won the lineal heavyweight title after beating champion Sonny Liston. Ali, 22 at the time, became the youngest boxer to claim the title from a champion.
All the while, Ali remained as an outspoken activist who wasn’t afraid to voice his opposing opinion on political matters. Ali opposed America’s involvement in the Vietnam war and ultimately refused to get drafted into the military stating religious beliefs as reasons.
As a result, he found himself on the wrong side of the law and was convicted of draft evasion with his titles stripped from him. Ali would spend the next five years from 1966 to 1971 behind bars, thus halting his budding career.
When he did return 1971, Ali went back to winning ways, winning his first bout. At the second try, Ali regained the world heavyweight title after beating George Foreman in the 1974 bout dubbed “The Rumble in the Jungle.” Ali reigned undisputed till 1978 during which he defended his title in 1975 against Joe Frazier in an epic match dubbed the “Thrilla in Manila.”
He lost the title in 1978 to Leon Spinks but regained it later the same year in a rematch to become the only pro boxer to win the lineal heavyweight championship three times.
Ali announced his retirement in 1979 but returned despite his poor health. He finally hung his gloves in 1981 recording 61 total fights, 56 wins (37 by KO) 5 losses.
Ali was named The Ring magazine Fighter of the Year a record of 6 times, the highest ever received by any boxer. Known for his trademark trash-talking and word rhymes, Ali tried his hands on music releasing 2 spoken word albums including one r n b song. He earned 2 Grammy nominations. Ali penned 2 autobiographies and acted in a number of films.
Ali was in 1984 diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He managed it until his death on June 3, 2016. He was 74 years old.
Ali founded GOAT LLC which managed all of his endorsements and licensing deals. In 2006, he sold 80% of the company for $50 million and kept the other 20% which was estimated to bring in an annual income of $5 million. At the time of his death, Ali was estimated to have a net worth of $50 million, however, around 2012 sources say his numbers reached $80 million.
Ali was born to parents Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. (1912–1990) and Odessa O’Grady Clay (1917–1994). His family is predominantly of African descent with traces of Irish and English. His descendants can be traced to the slaves of the antebellum south.
Ali’s father painted billboards for money while his mother worked as a domestic help. He had five siblings including one sister and four brothers. Alongside his siblings, Ali was raised as Baptists. His younger brother Rudolph “Rudy” Clay joined him to adopt the Ali surname.
Muhammad Ali was married four times in his lifetime. He had a total of 9 children including 2 sons and 7 daughters. His first marriage was in 1964 to cocktail waitress Sonji Roi. Their wedding had come about a month after dating. However, the marriage was only short-lived as they divorced in January 1966. They had no children together.
In 1967, Ali married his second wife, 17-year-old Belinda Boyd who upon marrying Ali converted to Islam changing her name to Khalilah Camacho-Ali.
They had four children together including Maryum (b 1968), twins Jamillah and Liban (born 1970), and Muhammad Ali Jr. born in 1972. After about 9 years together, they divorced in 1976.
While still married to Khalilah, Ali began engaging in extramarital affairs, first with a 16-year-old girl named Wanda Bolton. Ali married her in a non-recognized Islamic ceremony while still married to his second wife. Wanda would then change her name to Aaisha Ali. Together they had a daughter named Khalilah Ali who was born in 1974.
In another affair with Patrica Harvell, Ali had a daughter named Miya. Ali also cheated on his second wife with 18-year-old actress and model Veronica Porsche.
After finalizing his divorce from Khalilah, Ali married Veronica in 1977. They had two daughters; Hana (married to UFC fighter Kevin Casey) and Laila Ali. Laila had a successful professional boxing carer from 1999 to 2007. She won all her 24 bouts including 21 by KO.
Veronica and Ali divorced in 1986. That same year, Ali married his fourth wife Yolanda Williams. They adopted a 5-month-old boy named . Later in their marriage, Yolanda who was a Catholic converted to Islam. She was in her twenties at the time of conversion. Ali and Yolanda stayed married until his death.
Ali’s second wife Khalilah Ali revealed that Ali had several extramarital affairs and illegitimate children. Kiiursti Mensah-Ali has claimed to be Ali’s daughter from his 20-year-old relationship with Barbara Mensah.