1. Muhammad Ali is an American former professional boxer, generally considered among the greatest heavyweights in the history of the sport.
2. A controversial and polarizing figure during his early career, Ali is now highly regarded for the skills he displayed in the ring plus the values he exemplified outside of it: religious freedom, racial justice and the triumph of principle over expedience.
3. Ali began training at 12 years old and at the age of 22 won the world heavyweight championship in 1964 from Sonny Liston in a stunning upset.
4. Shortly after that bout, Ali joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name.
5. In 1967, three years after winning the heavyweight title, Ali refused to be conscripted into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War.
6. He was eventually arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges and stripped of his boxing title.
7. Ali remains the only three-time lineal world heavyweight champion; he won the title in 1964, 1974, and 1978.
8. Between February 25, 1964 and September 19, 1964 Muhammad Ali reigned as the undisputed heavyweight boxing champion.
9. Nicknamed “The Greatest”, Ali was involved in several historic boxing matches. Notable among these were the first Liston fight, three with rival Joe Frazier, and one with George Foreman, where he regained titles he had been stripped of seven years earlier.
10. Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. The older of two boys, he was named for his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr., who himself was named in honour of the 19th century abolitionist and politician of the same name.
11. Although Cassius Sr. was a Methodist, he allowed Odessa to bring up both Cassius and his younger brother Rudolph “Rudy” Clay as Baptists.
12. He was first directed toward boxing by Louisville police officer and boxing coach Joe E. Martin, who encountered the 12-year-old fuming over a thief taking his bicycle.