A life less ordinary: Celebrating 'The Greatest' as boxing legend Ali turns 70
As the great Muhammad Ali celebrates his 70th birthday, we look at the seven moments that defined a career that saw him become ‘The Greatest’
September 1960: A STAR IS BORN
An 18-year-old Cassius Clay announces his arrival to the boxing world by winning light heavyweight gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics. He was so proud he didn’t take his medal off for two days. Clay’s Olympic journey is completed when he lights the torch at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
A star is born: Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) stands proud atop the Rome Olympics podium
June 1963: HENRY’S HAMMER
In front of 35,000 at Wembley, history could have been changed when Henry Cooper’s left hook floored Clay in the fourth. A combination of smelling salts and a torn right glove bought him enough time to recover, and severe cuts to Cooper’ s left eye stopped the fight in the fifth.
February 1964: WORLD CHAMPION
Clay takes the world title for the first time at 22, defeating Sonny Liston in Miami Beach, Florida. After defeating Liston, who was 10 years his senior, Clay leapt around the ring shouting: ‘I’m the greatest thing that ever lived. I shook up the world!’
Floored: Still as Clay, Ali, was dumped on the canvas by Henry Cooper in 1963
1964-67: CREATION OF AN ICON
Once crowned world champion, Clay announced his conversion to the Nation of Islam and declared his new name: Muhammad Ali. An increasingly political figure, Ali had his title stripped and was banned from the ring after refusing to sign up for military service in Vietnam in April 1967.
March 1971: FIGHT OF THE CENTURY
After regaining his license, Ali fought the first of three classic encounters against reigning champion Joe Frazier. At a packed Madison Square Garden, where Frank Sinatra had to pose as a photographer to get ringside, Frazier retained his title by unanimous decision and dealt Ali his first professional defeat.
October 1974: THE RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE
Ali regained his title in one of the great upsets of boxing history. George Foreman was overwhelming favourite going into the fight in Zaire, but Ali, using his now legendary rope-a-dope, took tremendous punishment from the champion before knocking him down in the eighth.
October 1975: THE THRILLA IN MANILA
The climax of the Ali v Frazier trilogy. After beating Smokin’ Joe in 1974, Ali regained the title with his victory over Foreman in Zaire. And in Frazier’s last title shot, Ali triumphed after a brutal fight that saw Frazier’s trainer Eddie Futch refuse to let his fighter out for the 15th round.