Muhammad Ali/Cassius Clay

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Born Cassius Clay, a man who later changed his name (Muhammad Ali) to coincide with his religious beliefs, Ali was a charismatic boxer with a penchant for causing trouble and stirring the pot wherever he went. A man who could "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee ..." was an Olympic Champion and later World Heavyweight Champion. Ali's career started in the 1960s and ended in 1981. He fought some of the most memorable bouts in boxing history, clashing with legendary champions like Sonny Liston, Archie Moore and contemporary champions like Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Ken Norton.

Hobbyists can collect two versions of Ali's signature, his original given name, Cassius Clay, and the second one, Muhammad Ali. When comparing the availability of the two signatures, the first version is very scarce compared to the second one. While Ali occasionally signed his given name for collectors in the 1980s and 1990s, his preference was to sign his full name when asked by fans. In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, which has made it quite difficult for him to sign his name. Ali's signature can be described as anything from long, flowing and large to something that resembles a Richter Scale reading. To this day, he continues to sign his name with the demand outweighing the supply.

Subject Profile

Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., January 17, 1942-) is a retired professional boxer who, through his own bravado and with the endorsement of fans and experts across the globe, is hailed as “The Greatest.” Ali learned to box as a way of defending himself while growing up in Louisville, Kentucky. As an amateur, he captured Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, and an Amateur Athletic Union National Title. His amateur record was 100 wins with five losses. He also was awarded the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, and often told the story of how he threw his medallion into the Ohio River after being refused service at a “whites-only” restaurant. He received a replacement medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

From 1960 to 1963, in his first three years as a professional fighter, he amassed 19–0 record with 15 knockouts and famously began predicting in which round he would topple his opponent. His first title bout came in February 1964 when he defeated reigning Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston, becoming the youngest fighter (at age 22) to best a title-holding champ. Although he was originally known as Cassius Clay, Ali changed his name after joining the Nation of Islam 1964. He later converted to Sunni Islam and then Sufism. His religious convictions have played a major role in his life, most notably for his refusal to be drafted into the US Army in 1967, vehemently stating, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.” The move was respected by Vietnam War protestors but vilified by those who supported the war. He was found guilty for refusing induction into the US Armed Forces – a decision that also cost Ali his World Heavyweight title and suspension of his boxing license. The US Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 1971.

Ali was involved in several historic matches, including three against Joe Frazier (seen as among the greatest in boxing history, most notable 1975’s “Thrilla in Manila”), three against Ken Norton (one in which Ali’s jaw was broken), and the famous 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” versus George Foreman, in which Ali regained his stripped title. In February 1978, an aging Ali lost his heavyweight title to 1976 Olympic Light-Heavyweight Champion Leon Spinks, but recaptured it seven months later. The champ attempted to win a heavyweight title an unprecedented fourth time in a 1980 contest against Larry Holmes, but trainer Angelo Dundee refused to let Ali come out for the 11th round. That became Ali's only loss by anything other than a decision. The fight has been cited as a contributing factor in Ali's development of Parkinson's Disease. His final bout was a 1981 loss by unanimous decision after 10 rounds to Trevor Berbick.

Ranked with Babe Ruth as the most recognizable figure in sports history, Ali’s legacy includes contributions not only to boxing but also the civil rights movement. His 1984 Parkinson’s diagnosis has left him slowed but nevertheless a much-loved figure in sports and popular culture. Muhammad Ali posted a 56-5-0 record with 37 technical knockouts and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. Muhammad Ali, named as the most recognized American in the world, had the honor of lighting the Olympic torch at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia in one of the most memorable and emotional ceremonies in Olympic history. In 2005, President George W. Bush presented Ali with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.