It marked the first of three times Ali would win the heavyweight title. Shortly after the native of Louisville defeated Liston, Ali became a cog in both the civil rights and anti-war movement. Ali changed his name from Cassius Clay after he joined the Nation of Islam, and he was convicted of draft evasion in 1967 after he refused to fight in the Vietnam War because of religious beliefs. His opposition to the Vietnam War cost him the belt and led to a three-year ban from boxing.
His conviction for dodging the Vietnam War draft was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971. Ali returned to the ring in 1970 and suffered his first pro loss a year later in a title bout against Joe Frazier, who won via unanimous decision. It was the first of three memorable fights against Frazier – with Ali winning the last two.
Ali reclaimed the heavyweight belt against George Foreman in one of the most storied events in sports history, "The Rumble in the Jungle" in 1974. Ali employed the "rope-a-dope," in which he allowed Foreman to tire himself out as Ali absorbed punch after punch, before he claimed the bout in Zaire -- now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- with a knockout. In 1978, a clearly overweight Ali lost his title to Leon Spinks but won it back in a rematch six months later, making him the first fighter to win the heavyweight title three times.
Ali retired from boxing in 1981 with a 56-5 record, three of the losses coming in his final four fights. He had 37 knockouts. Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease three years after his retirement. Family members believed his years of boxing contributed to the disease. After his retirement, he concentrated on philanthropy and social activism.
My memories around the great man come from watching this fight - The Rumble In The Jungle. I remember having to be asleep early because the fight was broadcast early in the morning but all our fathers were determined to see what was going to happen. This film is a great documentary of the times and really worth your time if you want to see Ali in his prime when he was at full power. No one had ever existed like him and we will never see his like pass our way again and that is a shame.
My friend Michael was black and that made Ali a hero in his house, a devotion he passed on to me. We both even had the action figure which is one I would love to have in my collection again. I so remember that RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE fight and how Ali turned it around in the final rounds after tricking Foreman into punching himself out with the famous ROPE A DOPE tactic. It was quite a moment for a ten year old.
Today, one of my personal heroes passed away and I hope everyone remembers his courage and his class. He is now amongst the immortals.