Grew Up… as a Christian. Before he became Muhammad Ali – his Muslim name – he was known as Cassius Clay. “My name is not Clay,” he tells a reporter. “Clay is the name of the people who own my ancestors, and I no longer want to be called by that slave name.”
Living… through tumultuous times. To many, America felt like it was falling apart in the 1960s, and while Ali was on top of the boxing world – the heavyweight champion – politics and personal problems and were slowly beginning to consume him. From the assassination of his former friend, Malcolm X, to his bitter stand against the Vietnam War, Ali was very much a man of his time. But he wasn’t just affected by the headlines; he was making them.
Profession… boxer. “The people’s champ,” as he calls himself. But lately Ali has been behaving more like an activist. Banned from boxing and locked up for refusing to be drafted into the military, Ali has sacrificed the prime years of his career for refusing to fight in this “white man’s war” in Vietnam.
Interests… integrity. While boxing is Ali’s calling, he has higher interests. His principles are what matter to him most, and he’ll never sacrifice what he believes for worldly success: “I ain’t got to be what nobody else want me to be, and I ain’t afraid to be what I want to be. Think how I wanna think.”
Challenge… staying out of jail. After refusing to be drafted, Ali has been charged with a felony. He could face up to five years in jail for not serving in the Vietnam War. He says he has no quarrel with the Viet Cong – none of them ever disrespected or enslaved his people.
Personality… charismatic, strong, and conceited. Ali defeats opponents in conversation just as easily as he defeats them in the boxing ring; perhaps more easily. His acidic wit and obstinate determination have made his personality just as legendary as his talent with his fists.
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