The boxer, who himself was the greatest, was born in 1942. At birth, he was given the name of his father – Cassius Clay. However, in 1964, the young boxer, who had just won the title of world champion, changed his name. But why did he do it?
“Even Jesus was always white in the pictures”
Clay’s childhood passed at a time when racial inequality reigned in America. The boy sincerely did not understand why blacks are considered second-rate people, which is why in the evenings he often cried in the pillow. The injustice reached the point that even on a hot day in the cafe where Cassius’s mother worked. They refused to give a glass of water for her son. Clay’s worldview was also influenced by a creepy story that his father told as an example of racial prejudice. In 1955, 14-year-old black boy Emmett Till was brutally murdered by two white men. The reason was the allegedly inappropriate behavior of a teenager, who did not have any evidence. The 21-year-old girl complained that Till either whined insultingly (which could have happened because of his diction problems), or grabbed her hand, or said something too impudent.
The husband of the girl and his half-brother decided to deal with Till without trial. The men brutally beat the teenager and threw his body into the river. A jury consisting of white people, the murderers acquitted, although they later confessed to the crime, taking advantage of the fact that the second time they could not be brought under the law. The “injured” girl also stated that her words were false. Clay such injustice just scared. The boy could not understand why black people in society have such a situation.
Muhammad Ali quotes: The little black boys had no example to follow. We didn’t have a single hero who looked like us. Even Jesus was always white in the pictures. So one day I asked my mother: “What will happen when we die? Will we go to heaven?”
When a bicycle was stolen from a 12-year-old Clay, he was going to beat his offenders, but for this it was necessary to first learn not only to wave his fists. So Cassius was in the boxing section. Successes came one after another, and at the age of 18, Clay became the Olympic champion. Inspired by the success, he returned to his hometown, where he entered the institution with the sign “Only for white”, hoping to impress the staff with the gold medal of the Olympics. However, the response of the waiter Clay discouraged: “Negram not served.” Cassius was so upset that he threw out the Olympic award, which in no way changed his position in society, into the river. After 36 years, he was given a new one in exchange for the lost.
“Forget my old name! Now I am Mohammed Ali”
By that time, Clay had learned about the “Nation of Islam” – a religious organization that had as its goal the improvement of the spiritual, social and economic position of blacks in the United States and not only. Cassius had been in close contact with members of the organization for several years and in 1964, immediately after winning the first world title, announced that he had joined the Nation of Islam. Clay first renounced his last name, which he received from the white slave owners, and asked him to call him Cassius X. Two weeks later, as a permanent member of the organization, the boxer received a full-fledged Muslim name – Mohammed Ali.
Everyone was shocked. During the fighting, Ali continued to be called Clay, the black boxers said that he had let his fans down, and the WBA president had said that “Clay caused damage to the boxing world and sets a bad example of youth.” Cassius Clay, the elder, also opposed the decision of his son, who was sure that his son was brainwashed and continued to bear his name. Ali claimed that he felt enlightenment. Ali immediately wanted to deprive all titles, but this was not possible: there were no legal grounds for this. In 1967, he refused to serve in the army for religious reasons, for which he was deprived of all titles and excommunicated from boxing for three years.
When money began to run out at Mohammed, he declared that, for the sake of a decent fee, he was ready to return to the ring. Here his spiritual mentor from the Nation of Islam was already in a rage, separating Ali from religion for a year for putting the money of white slave-owners above serving Allah.
Muhammad Ali Vietnam War: “The Vietnamese have done nothing wrong to me”
On numerous requests from journalists to comment on the changed situation, Ali was upset in his hearts responded with phrases: “I didn’t quarrel with Viet Cong,” “I have nothing against Viet Cong,” “Viet Cong didn’t do anything wrong to me,” “Viet Cong never called me a Niger,” and t .P. In the following months, an incredible rush arose around Ali in the United States. Pacifists supported him, while the militarists expressed their indignation and indignation. In principle, it is unlikely that after the call, Ali would be thrown into the thick of hostilities. In the worst-case scenario for him, like his predecessor on the champion throne of Heaviweat, the legendary Joe Louis, who was drafted into the army during World War II, he would have performed demonstrative battles in leading military units. However, Mohammed was firm in his convictions. He did not run abroad, but on the contrary, began to actively travel around campuses with anti-war speeches.
It should be noted that at that time the pacifist-minded Americans in relation to the conduct of the war in Vietnam were a clear minority. One of those who most violently poisoned and condemned Ali was first the candidate for governor, and then the acting governor of California and the future president of the USA Ronald Reagan. Through the efforts of conservatives and militarists, Mohammed was gradually marginalized in American society. Then he was supported mainly by black citizens of America. After defeating former world champion, Floyd Patterson, Ali was criticized for excessive cruelty to the enemy. However, Mohammed had his own reasons to torture his opponent, since he refused to call him Mohammed Ali at the pre-match events, calling him Cassius Clay with the old name and surname.
But the first problems with the conduct of fighting in the United States, Ali began after public statements about the refusal to serve in Vietnam. Because of this, Mohammed toured Canada and Europe, defending his world title in battles against George Shuvalo, Henry Cooper, Brian London and Karl Mildenberger. During these months, the hype about Ali’s anti-war statements subsided somewhat, and he returned to the States after fights with Cleveland Williams and Ernie Terrell in Texas. However, after the battle with the latter, critics again accused Mohammed of “mistreatment of a rival.” The reason for this again was that Terrell, as before Patterson, refused to call him Ali.
“Rumble in the jungle”
“The rumble in the jungle” is perhaps the most famous and significant confrontation in the world of boxing – the battle of George Foreman with Mohammed Ali. The fight really took place in the jungle – in the capital of the former Belgian colony of the Congo, which began to bear the proud aboriginal name of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Kinshasa.
It was this fight that was the first for Don King to be a promoter. No, of course, he had not been in the last roles before, but it was the Rumble in the jungle that was completely organized by him. It was King proposed to hold a duel in Africa. It was he who agreed with the Zaire dictator Mobutu, and persuaded him to allocate $ 12 million, unprecedented for those times. Don also spoke actively about the battle in the heart of Africa – as if it was the craving for the roots that determined the location of the battle. Still not let up Ali. He declared that the fight is a struggle for a “big black deed”. Foreman only replied to this: “Yes, I am blacker than him twice.”
In general, this situation looked pretty funny. Metis (Ali also had Irish blood) from a wealthy family in the Midwest – the black radical. And the truly black Negro from the very southern state (George was from Texas) from an incomplete large family and besides with a hooligan past – a patriot of the American dream.
“Thrilla in Manila”: the coolest fight of Mohammed Ali
In 1971, the battle contract was signed, and Ali declared himself an enemy of Joe Frazier for the next 5 years. During these five years they will meet three times. In the first fight, Frazier sent Ali to the hardest knockdown, one of which they don’t usually stand up, and won on points. Almost three years later, Ali took revenge and discovered his way to the return of the crown. He knocked out George Foreman, who a year earlier was too big, too strong and too tough for Fraser. But, once again at the top, Mohammed discovered that the next in line was his “friend” Joe Frazier.
The battle in the arena of Araneta Coliseum in the capital of the Philippines was only the final chord of the war, which lasted from 1971. The Cadillacs and Lincolns, in which Ali’s team was traveling, struggled through crowds of people all the way, and Joe Frazier flew in and settled in the Hyatt almost unnoticed. The very first interview for the gathered press – and Ali takes out of his pocket the little rubber figure of the gorilla. And he repeats: “It will be murder, horror, and thriller, when I get to this gorilla in Manila.” He began to peel this rubber toy, saying: “Hey, Joe, hello, gorilla! We are already in Manila! ” Then someone brought a half-meter monkey doll to the training room, and Ali beat her too. As if this was not enough, he showed up for Fraser’s training, insulted him for a long time, standing on the balcony of the hall, and then threw the chair down. A few days before the fight, he came to the hotel to Fraser and threatened him with a pistol – as it later turns out to be a toy, but Fraizer was not in the mood for jokes. “Hey, Joe, I’ll get you, I’ll shoot you!” Ali made these antics every day, and unless he did not admit out loud that he was doing this only to stifle his fear, gain self-confidence and deprive her of her opponent. The same strength in battle can only be called “Fight of the century” – another famous standoff in the ring between Ali and Joe Freizer.