Very few professional athletes have impacted their sport the way that Muhammad Ali impacted boxing. The three-time heavyweight champion of the world may have been the most charismatic athlete the world has ever seen, and despite his unrivaled standing a civil rights and pop culture icon, it was his prowess in the ring that deservedly earned him the title of “The Greatest.”
With the recent passing of Ali after a hard-fought 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, we wanted to pay homage to “The Greatest” by re-visiting the best moments of his legendary boxing career. Here’s what we came up with, listed in chronological order.
1. Gold medal victory at Summer Olympics in Rome – 1960
Despite having a strong fear of flying, Ali, still known as Cassius Clay at the time, traveled to Rome, Italy with the U.S. Olympic team to compete in the light heavyweight division of the 1960 Summer Olympics. And as a relatively unknown 18-year-old amateur, Clay burst onto the boxing scene with authority by cruising through his weight class and knocking off Zbigniew Pietrzykowski in the tournament final. At that moment a star was born.
Clay was widely viewed as a celebrity throughout his time in Rome, and was met with a similar response when he returned to the U.S. He turned pro shortly after returning from the Olympics, and the rest, as they say, is history.