Born Cassius Clay, Jr. 17 January 1942, Oil and Steel Wire on Board, 100cm by 100cm, 2012
“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under the lights. Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
An American former professional boxer, philanthropist and social activist. Born Cassius Clay, Ali changed his name after joining the Nation of Islam in 1964, subsequently converting to Sunni Islam in 1975, and more recently practicing Sufism. In 1967, three years after Ali had won the World Heavyweight Championship, he was publicly vilified for his refusal to be conscripted into the U.S. military, based on his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. Ali stated, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong”. Widespread protests against the Vietnam War had not yet begun, but with that one phrase, Ali articulated the reason to oppose the war for a generation of young Americans, and his words served as a touchstone for the racial and antiwar upheavals that would rock the 1960s.
Nicknamed “The Greatest,” during his prime Ali was involved in several historic boxing matches. Ali was well known for his unorthodox fighting style, which he described as “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”, and employing techniques such as the “Ali Shuffle” and the “rope-a-dope”. Ali had brought beauty and grace to the most uncompromising of sports and through the wonderful excesses of skill and character, he had become the most famous athlete in the world.
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