Skip to main content

10 facts about Muhammad Ali you probably didn’t know

Muhammad Ali wasn’t just one of the greatest boxers of all-time, he was an iconic symbol of freedom and free speech, among many, many other things. Here are 10 things you may have never known about the former great.
10 facts about Muhammad Ali you probably didn’t know

10 facts about Muhammad Ali you probably didn’t know

Muhammad Ali wasn’t just one of the greatest boxers of all-time, he was an iconic symbol of freedom and free speech. Unfortunately, the world has lost one of its iconic symbols at the age of 74-years-old on June 3, 2016. Ali had battled Parkinson's syndrome since 1984 and then passed away of septic shock after he was hospitalized for respiratory issues.

Here are 10 things you may have never known about the former great.

10) His real name

Ali’s real name was Cassius Marcellus Clay. He was named after a 19th-century abolitionist who had liberated 40 slaves that he inherited from his father. The abolitionist was also the second-cousin of Henry Clay who was a represented Kentucky in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives.

His real name

Ali’s real name was Cassius Marcellus Clay.

Ali’s real name was Cassius Marcellus Clay.

Ali’s real name was Cassius Marcellus Clay.

Ali was named after a 19th-century abolitionist who had liberated 40 slaves that he inherited from his father.

Next: Why Muhammad Ali started boxing

9) Why Muhammad Ali started boxing

Ali started boxing because his bike was stolen. When Ali had reported that his red bike that he received for Christmas was stolen, he had told Officer Joe Martin what he would do to the perpetrator if he ever found him. Martin at the time ran a recreational center and suggested that Ali learn how to box. Martin became his first coach.

Ali started boxing because his bike was stolen.

Ali started boxing because his bike was stolen.

Ali started boxing because his bike was stolen.

Ali started boxing because his bike was stolen.

Next: He was afraid of flying

8) He was afraid of flying

Ali was afraid of flying and wanted to skip the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Italy. Thankfully, his coach Joe Martin convinced him to go. Ali had bought himself a parachute and wore it all the way to Rome. He went on to win gold in the light heavyweight division.

He was afraid of flying

Ali was afraid of flying and wanted to skip the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Italy.

Ali had bought himself a parachute and wore it all the way to Rome.

Ali had bought himself a parachute and wore it all the way to Rome.

Next: Ali's gold medal

7) Ali's gold medal

Ali never chucked his gold medal into the Ohio River. After having won the light heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Olympics, it was rumored that the Olympian had thrown his medal into the Ohio River after he was confronted with cruel racism at a whites-only restaurant. In fact, years later Ali admitted that he had misplaced it. He was given a replacement at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Ali's gold medal

Ali never chucked his gold medal into the Ohio River.

years later Ali admitted that he had misplaced it. He was given a replacement at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Years later Ali admitted that he had misplaced it. He was given a replacement at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Next: Before he was Muhammad

6) Before he was Muhammad

Prior to changing his name to Muhammad Ali, he changed his name to “Cassius X” first. He did this when he announced that he had joined the Nation of Islam. With Malcolm X next to his side and having defeated Sonny Liston the night before, he stated that his surname Clay was his “slave name.” His name Muhammad Ali was given to him by Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad on March 6, 1964.

Before he was Muhammad

Prior to changing his name to Muhammad Ali, he changed his name to “Cassius X”.

With Malcolm X next to his side and having defeated Sonny Liston the night before, he stated that his surname Clay was his “slave name.”

With Malcolm X next to his side and having defeated Sonny Liston the night before, he stated that his surname Clay was his “slave name.”

Next: Muhammad Ali was convicted and stripped of his title

5) Muhammad Ali was convicted and stripped of his title

Ali was convicted of draft evasion in 1967. Stating that he did not want to fight in the Vietnam War due to religious beliefs, Ali was stripped of his world title and lost his license to box in many states. He would not fight again for almost four years until the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned his conviction in 1971.

Muhammad Ali was convicted and stripped of his title

Ali was convicted of draft evasion in 1967.

He would not fight again for almost four years until the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned his conviction in 1971.

He would not fight again for almost four years until the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned his conviction in 1971.

Next: Ali was a theater actor

4) Ali was a theater actor

Ali was a recording artist as well as a theater actor. Famous for his promotional skills and taunting abilities, not many people know that he had also recorded an album of spoken word poetry with background music titled I Am The Greatest. In addition to that, during his banned years, Ali had actually performed on Broadway. As “Buck White,” Ali was a militant black lecturer. Sadly, the show only ran for four nights.

Ali was a theater actor

Ali was a theater actor

Ali had actually performed on Broadway. As “Buck White,” Ali was a militant black lecturer.

Ali had actually performed on Broadway. As “Buck White,” Ali was a militant black lecturer.

Next: Muhammad Ali was Irish ...?

3) Muhammad Ali was Irish ...?

Ali has an Irish background. Further digging into his background, his great-grandfather Abe Grady was an Irishman who had migrated to the United States. Grady eventually married a freed slave. She gave birth to Ali’s grandmother Odessa Lee Grady Clay.

Ali has an Irish background.

Ali has an Irish background.

his great-grandfather Abe Grady was an Irishman who had migrated to the United States.

Ali's great-grandfather Abe Grady was an Irishman who had migrated to the United States.

Next: Muhammad Ali gets 15 hostages freed

2) Muhammad Ali gets 15 hostages freed

Ali had freed 15 hostages from Kuwait in 1990. Already retired, Ali had flown to Iraq and spoken to Saddam Hussein as a Muslim and as an American. Although his speech had deteriorated since he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1984, he was able to convince Hussein to release 15 hostages. Ali had stayed in Baghdad until Hussein had fulfilled the end of his bargain.

Muhammad Ali gets 15 hostages freed

Ali had freed 15 hostages from Kuwait in 1990.

Ali had stayed in Baghdad until Hussein had fulfilled the end of his bargain.

Ali had stayed in Baghdad until Hussein had fulfilled the end of his bargain.

Next: Ali fought a wrestler

1) Ali fought a wrestler

Ali had dabbled in a wrestling event that would influence MMA. Not only was Ali one of the greatest boxers of all-time, but he had competed in an amateur wrestling event for the Japanese Amateur Wrestling Association. His opponent was Antonio Inoki. Restrictions were given for the bout that had Inoki on his back the whole time throwing kicks at Ali. Ali had only thrown six punches through 15 rounds and the fight was declared a draw.

Ali fought a wrestler

Ali had dabbled in a wrestling event that would influence MMA.

His opponent was Antonio Inoki.

His opponent was Antonio Inoki.

Clyde Erwin Barretto is an emphatic obsessed fan of mixed martial arts, combat sports and body movement. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeBarretto.

Next: 5 most influential martial artists of the last 100 years