Muhammad Ali was raised Cassius Clay in a small home in Louisville, Kentucky. From those humble beginnings neither he nor any observer at that time could have fathomed the path he would carve through life. He was a Golden Gloves champion at age 17, an Olympic gold medalist at age 18, and an undefeated heavyweight champion at age 22.
His fighting career began when, spurred by the theft of his prized new bicycle, he was out to get the person responsible. Ali was venting his anger at the local gym, when the perceptive policeman Joe Martin admonished, “You better learn to box first.” And box he did. Within a week he had his first match and first win. This feisty, 89-pound young man was ready to take on the world. And before his career in the ring ended, the world would know his name as the man crowned heavyweight champion three times—the greatest.
Outside of athletics, too, Ali never shirked at standing up for what he believed in. A prominent civil rights activist beginning in the 1960s, he took his conviction for draft evasion as a conscientious objector all the way to the Supreme Court, which overturned his conviction in 1971. He used his words as well as his fists, recording two spoken-word albums and an R&B song and earning two Grammy nominations; writing two autobiographies; and acting in several films and a Broadway musical.
Ultimately, his greatest fight was not in the ring. After beating the world’s toughest human opponents, it was Parkinson’s disease that would prove to be his final foe. In true Ali style, he met this challenge head on. Instead of shrinking from this difficulty, he stepped onto the world stage once more as a champion. His tireless work raising money to fight this debilitating disease inspired thousands and endeared him to a new generation of admirers around the world even beyond his death in 2016. As he was in the ring, he remains in our eyes—the greatest.
Courage. Pass It On!
This billboard about Courage features Muhammad Ali; boxer, Heavy-Weight Champion.