Photos: Muhammad Ali’s life in pictures 06.06.16 Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, Kentucky on 17 January 1942. He took up boxing at the age of 12 and went on to win light-heavyweight gold at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Clay turned professional in October 1960 aged 18 and won 18 straight fights before travelling to London in June 1963 for his first paid bout overseas, where he predicted a fifth-round knockout of local hero Henry Cooper. Cooper floored Clay in round four with ‘Enery’s ‘Ammer’ only for the brash American visitor to deliver on his word and force a stoppage in his chosen round in front of more than 55,000 people at Wembley Stadium. Clay’s first shot at a world title came in February 1964, when he took on formidable world champion Sonny Liston. The brooding Liston predicted: “I think I’m gonna have to hurt that boy bad.” Dismissed by most boxing experts before the fight, Clay put in an exhilarating performance in Miami, forcing Liston to quit on his stool before the sixth round and winning the world heavyweight title at the age of 22. Clay’s victory over Liston was, and still is, one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. Clay, understandably, was even more verbose than usual: “I am the greatest! I am the greatest! I’m the king of the world!” Ali – who announced his membership of the Nation of Islam and adopted his new name following the first Liston fight – made his first world title defence against Liston, “that ugly old bear”, in Lewiston, Maine in May 1965. Ali won the rematch with Liston after knocking him down in the first minute of the first round. To this day, many believe Liston threw the fight, but Ali always maintained it was not a so-called ‘Phantom Punch’. In November 1965 Ali defended his title against former champion Floyd Patterson, winning via a 12th-round stoppage. Patterson had been particularly scathing on the subject of Ali’s politics and religion. Ali returned to London to fight Henry Cooper for a second time in May 1966 at Arsenal’s former home Highbury. The British fans, who had not taken to Ali the first time around, were now enthralled by his every move. Angelo Dundee, seen strapping his charge’s hands before the Cooper fight, was in Ali’s corner almost from the start of his professional career. “There’s only one Cassius Clay,” said Dundee. “Thank God.” Ali stopped Cooper in six rounds after opening up a deep gash over the Englishman’s left eye. On Cooper’s death in 2011, Ali said: “I will miss my old friend – he was a great fighter and a gentleman.” Ali’s eighth title defence came against Ernie Terrell in February 1967. Ali taunted Terrell, who had called Ali by his birth name in the lead-up, for 15 rounds, repeatedly asking: “What’s my name, Uncle Tom?” After only one more dazzling defence, against Zora Folley, Ali was stripped of his title having refused induction into the US Army fighting in Vietnam. It would be more than three years before Ali returned to the ring. Ali’s first defeat came against new world champion Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden in March 1971. Dubbed simply ‘The Fight’, it was the first time two undefeated heavyweight world champions had shared the same ring. Ali won a rematch with Frazier but arguably his finest hour came later in 1974 when he fought George Foreman in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’. Ali spent eight rounds leaning back on the ropes, a tactic he called ‘rope-a-dope’. But Ali sprung from the ropes at the end of round eight and floored Foreman with a stunning combination, becoming only the second man in history to regain the world heavyweight title, at the ripe old age of 32. Ali beat Britain’s Joe Bugner in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in June 1975. Four months later Ali sealed another famous victory over his great rival Joe Frazier in the ‘Thrilla in Manila’ – “the closest thing to death that I could feel”, said Ali. A pitiful Ali lost his title to Leon Spinks in 1978 before regaining it from Spinks later the same year. He announced his retirement nine months later, only to return to challenge new champion Larry Holmes in 1980. After being defeated by Holmes, Ali had one more fight, a defeat by Trevor Berbick, before retiring at the age of 40. His departure left a huge gulf in heavyweight boxing that was only filled by Mike Tyson’s arrival in the mid-1980s. Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Syndrome in 1984 but dealt with his condition with courage and dignity. In 1996, Ali was watched by a worldwide audience of billions as he lit the Olympic cauldron in Atlanta. Also in Atlanta, Ali was re-presented with his gold medal from the 1960 Rome Olympics – Ali claimed he threw the original into the Ohio River after being refused service at a whites-only restaurant, although the story is disputed. The turn of the new millennium saw Ali garlanded with numerous accolades – BBC viewers voted him Sports Personality of the Century, the same year Britain’s heavyweight king Lennox Lewis scooped the main award. Ali’s daughter, Laila, took up boxing at the age of 15, turned professional in 1999 and beat Joe Frazier’s daughter, Jackie Frazier-Lyde, in 2001. Laila won the super-middleweight title in 2002 before retiring in 2007. In 2001 a biopic – Ali – is released, starring Hollywood actor Will Smith. Ali continues to flit in and out of the public eye, rubbing shoulders all over the globe with the great and good, despite his deteriorating condition. Ali, seen here at a charity event in his name in 2011, cuts an increasingly frail figure entering his 70th year. “I think maybe my Parkinson’s is God’s way of reminding me what is important,” is his philosophical take on his life. Muhammad Ali (second right) attends the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics alongside the likes of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (second left) and distance runner Haile Gebrselassie (far left).