Muhammad Ali was a great boxer. But, of course, turned out to be much more than a boxer. His victory over Sonny Liston in 1964 for the heavyweight title was only the beginning of a public life that has been played out as much on the front page as on the sports page.
This research examines the historical and legendary life of the boxer known as Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali's life example has served as a pivotal point in history for breaking racist stereotypes. Ali eventually used his boxing fame to create an ethnic identity for Afro-Americans in American history. His life is one of a great boxer, a symbol of black pride, a creator of a new civil rights movement, and a living prophet of religion as tolerance.
Not that his boxing feats can be minimized. Perhaps the greatest fighter of all time, he held center stage for 20 years, winning the heavyweight title at an early age, defending it 19 times, challenging for it five times, and regaining it at an age only one other champ exceeded. But he was also a transcendental sports figure as important in his era as Jackie Robinson was in his. Beyond boxing, Ali's roles have ranged from leader and lightning rod in an emerging era of black pride -- a "blast furnace of racial pride," as one writer described him -- to early objector to an unwanted war in Vietnam to a kind of ambassador who awakened America to an awakening Third World (Rather 1).
At eight years old, as the oft-told story goes, Ali's bike was stolen. The incident put him in touch with a policeman who also happened to produce a TV show showcasing young boxing talents. If he was going to beat the person who stole his bike, the cop told young Cassius Clay, he had better learn to box first.
Ali was also a good communicator, and not just through his famous bragging. He promoted - which is to say, marketed - not only his own career but boxing in general and, later, black pride, tolerance and civil rights. No one ever did it quite...