Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali was born as Cassius Clay on January 18, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. He started boxing at the age of twelve, won two Golden Gloves championships, and in 1960 won the gold medal at the Rome Olympic Games. Patterning himself after the wrestler Gorgeous George, he developed into a showman, and in 1964 he won the heavyweight championship by defeating Sonny Listen. Immediately after becoming heavyweight champion, he joined the Black Muslims and took the name Muhammad Ali. Two years later his draft board revoked his 1-Y deferment, which he had received for failing the IQ test, and reclassified him 1-A. Ali appealed for deferment as a conscientious objector on religious principles. "I ain't got no quarrel with those Vietcong, anyway," he said. "They never called me nigger." His appeal was denied and he was drafted on April 18, 1967. Ali refused to go, the World Boxing Association stripped him of the championship, and in June 1967 he was convicted of violating the Selective Service Act, fined $10,000, and sentenced to five years in prison. Ali became a hero of the antiwar movement, as well as for poor people and blacks. In June 1970 the Supreme Court reversed his conviction, and in October 1974 Ali regained the heavyweight championship. He retired from boxing in 1980. Later that year, President Jimmy Carter appointed him as a special envoy to Africa to urge an African boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.