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What Made Muhammad Ali a True Icon?

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The Muhammad Ali the World Admires
As Cassius Clay, born January 17, 1942, Muhammad Ali entered the world of professional boxing and emerged as an icon, most beloved and admired by the world. Born when World War II ended and the nation was beginning to move forward, Muhammad Ali took center stage from the moment he stepped into the ring. Mostly sportsman and partly a celebrity, he easily blurred lines between the sports world and the drama his life became.

In his youth, he was fearless, self-confident of his skills and talents and always the man with a whimsical way with words that, to this day, remain in memory. This is the Muhammad Ali the world holds dear to their hearts.

Muhammad Ali, True Icon of Strength of Character
Even though at times, Muhammad Ali may have exhibited a more whimsical side of himself, he forged ahead to win boxing titles with the ease of "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee" as he once stated. If ever there has been an American who steadfastly held to his beliefs, Muhammad Ali’s that man. He refused to enlist in the US military on religious grounds, fighting for his rights in the US Supreme Court, which upheld his rights. Ali’s strength as a professional boxer paled by comparison to his strength of character and will to fight for his rights and freedom.

To his credit, Muhammad Ali remains the single three-time World Heavyweight Champion, titles he won in 1964, 1974, and 1978 in several historic matches with George Forman and the popular Joe Frazier. Through Muhammad Ali's boxing successes, the endearing core of his personality deepened public respect and accorded honor to him, even when effects of his boxing career began to be debilitating. In 1984, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Ali was honored by several US presidents and remains the most celebrated national icon.

The Measure of the Man, Muhammad Ali
When Muhammad Ali retired from boxing, he settled into a less public life to raise a family. As disease continually ravaged his body, his mind remained as sharp as always.

In several celebrity appearances, Muhammad Ali "pretended" to be "punch drunk." He'd pretend to punch the hosts in the nose. With his wry smile and quick wit, audiences roared with laughter when his "sparring partners" realized he was just "putting them on." 

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