"To prove I am great, he will fall in eight." - Muhammad Ali
A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors' American Legends series, listeners can get caught up to speed on the lives of America's most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
The sports world has never suffered from a shortage of self-promoters, but none have ever walked the walk and backed up the talk like Muhammad Ali, boxing's greatest icon and possibly history's most famous athlete. Indeed, even referring to Ali just as a boxer does a disservice to the transcendent figure he has become around the world as a living legend.
Of course, the legend of Ali begins in the squared circle, where a young, brash kid named Cassius Clay rose to the top of the boxing world with a style so unorthodox that anyone else attempting it would all but assure he'd get knocked out. But Ali became the heavyweight champ by keeping his hands low, "floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee", and outboxing heavyweight champions like Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, and Floyd Patterson. In his early years, Muhammad Ali truly was the Greatest, and he could only be stopped by the Vietnam War, when his refusal to enter the armed forces resulted in his arrest and the stripping of his title.
Ali also lost three years of his fighting prime before returning to the ring, but his most iconic fights were still ahead of him, including the "The Thrilla in Manilla" and "The Rumble in the Jungle".