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Muhammad Ali: The Boxing Legend

Muhammad Ali was an American Olympic and professional boxer and activist, widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century. Right from the early days of his career, Ali was known as an inspiring, controversial and polarizing figure both inside and outside the ring. He was short tempered and self-declared fearless man. He was born as Cassius Clay and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, USA and began training as a boxer when he was 12 years old. At 18, he won the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. One day Clay announced his conversion to Islam, changed his legal name from Cassius Clay, which he called his “slave name”, to Muhammad Ali, and gave a message of racial pride for African Americans and resistance to white domination during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement there after till his death he remained Muslim.

Ali was married four times and had seven daughters and two sons. He met his first wife, cocktail waitress Sonji Roi, approximately one month before they married on August 14, 1964. Roi’s objections to certain Muslim customs in regard to dress for women contributed to the breakup of their marriage. They divorced on January 10, 1966. On August 17, 1967, Ali married Belinda Boyd. After the wedding, she, followed Ali and converted to Islam. She changed her name to Khalilah Ali, though she was still called Belinda by old friends and family. They had four children. Ali was a resident of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, in the early 1970s. He had two other daughters, Miya and Khaliah, from extramarital relationships. Ali’s daughter Laila became a boxer in 1999, despite her father’s earlier comments against female boxing in 1978: “Women are not made to be hit in the breast, and face like that… the body’s not made to be punched right here patting his chest. Get hit in the breast… hard… and all that. But still ignoring her father’s statements and opinion, she got in the boxing ring.

In 1975, Ali began an affair with Veronica Porché, an actress and model. By the summer of 1977, his second marriage was over and he had married Porché. At the time of their marriage, they had a baby girl, Hana, and Veronica was pregnant with their second child. Their second daughter, Laila Ali, was born in December 1977. By 1986, Ali and Porché were divorced. On November 19, 1986, Ali married Yolanda (“Lonnie”) Williams. They had been friends since 1964 in Louisville. They had one son, Asaad Amin, whom they adopted when Amin was five months old. Kiiursti Mensah-Ali claims to be Ali’s biological daughter with Barbara Mensah, with whom he had a 20-year relationship and paternity test conducted in 1988. She said he accepted responsibility and took care of her, but all contacts with him were cut off after he married his fourth wife Lonnie. Kiiursti claims to have a relationship with his other children. After his death, she again made passionate appeals to be allowed to mourn at his funeral.

Besides marriage, children and other affairs, in 1966, two years after winning the heavyweight title, Ali further antagonized the white establishment by refusing to be conscripted into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War. He was eventually arrested, found guilty of draft evasion charges and stripped of his boxing titles. He successfully appealed in the US Supreme Court, which overturned his conviction in 1971. By that time, he had not fought for nearly four years—losing a period of peak performance as an athlete. Ali’s actions as a conscientious objector to the war made him an icon for the larger counterculture generation.

In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome, which he attributed to boxing-related brain injuries. As the condition worsened, he made limited public appearances and was cared for by his family, until his death.

Ali lived lavishing life with lots of children and affairs. He lived it to the fullest and died at the age of 74. Ali had been publicly battling Parkinson’s disease for more than three decades, so it came as a surprise to many that his official cause of death, according to family spokesman Bob Gunnell, was “septic shock due to unspecified natural causes”. The origin of Ali’s infection has not been revealed, but the CDC stresses that an infection that starts anywhere in your body can lead to sepsis, even if it is only a minor one to begin with. The agency says there are more than 1 million documented cases of sepsis every year in the United States, including more than a quarter-million deaths.

According to the CDC, the number of sepsis cases is on the rise in the United States because the population is aging; people have more chronic illness. They are getting more invasive procedures, immune-suppressive drugs, chemotherapy, organ transplants and because of increasing antibiotic resistance. There’s also increasing awareness and tracking of sepsis. A fighter throughout his life, he encountered many challenges and passed away fighting his illness.

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Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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