Arguably the greatest, Muhammad Ali was an American professional boxer who has fought many fights and recorded some of the finest records in the history of boxing.
At the time of his death on 3rd June 2016, Ali had was worth an estimated $50 million. Here’s a story of how he amassed such wealth by becoming one of the greatest boxers of all time.
Bio – The Early Days of Ali’s Life
Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. At the age of 12, he had his bicycle stolen from him. Helpless, angry and frustrated over the incidence, police officer and boxing coach Joe E. Martin approached and introduced him to boxing.
His first fight as a boy earned him 4 dollars and he was shown on local TV. What this did to him was to make him believe that if he could fight and be shown on Saturday Night Television, he would be able to make as much as $4000. A car for himself and a home for his mother was his goal at first.
Immediately Clay began training with boxing coach Fred Stoner. As an amateur he had 100 wins and 3 losses, among his wins included 6 Kentucky Golden Gloves, 2 National Golden Gloves, and 1 Amateur Athletic Junior Title. The highlight of his amateur career was at the 1960 Olympic where he won the light heavyweight gold medal.
For his education, Clay attended the Central High School Kenturkey from where he graduated in 1958. By this time, he had already started boxing and he was already making it good as a young boxer.
Muhammad Ali’s Professional Career
Immediately after the Olympic, Clay went pro, he won his debut pro fight in October 1960 and remained undefeated for 3 straight years, winning all 19 of his fights including 15 KO’s. He quickly gained popularity for his boxing style and controversial character. He was known for taunting his opponents before and during the fight and announcing before the bout what round he’d win.
Clay defeated all but one, Sonny Liston who was at the time the world heavyweight champion. The match was scheduled for February 25, 1964, and Clay had a 7-1 odd of beating Liston. However, the match was a great and unexpected upset as Clay defeated Liston stripping him off his title. Clay was at the time 22 years old, making him the youngest boxer to snap the title from a champion. Later in 1964, Clay made the conversion to Islam changing his name to Muhammad Ali. He went on to win more bouts including popular ones versus Floyd Patterson and Ernie Terrell the latter which was described as one of the cruellest fights in boxing history.
His professional boxing career began when he was only 17 with a win against Tunney Hunsaker. For the next 20 years, he would keep fighting and dominating, until the age of 38 when he finally gave way after losing three of his last four fights.
At a time when boxers were hardly heard, Ali didn’t only do his business in the ring, as he was also one who spoke fury on opponents even before fights. Why this drew so much attention to him was because he was both articulate and poetic. He made use of intelligent words and rhymes, making him entertaining and effective both in the ring and out of it.
Arrest And Comeback
Growing up in an America that was still facing racism including a case that he was denied water as a child because he was black, and coupled with his conversion to Islam, Ali was very conscious of politics, race, and religion, and these would come to shape and determine a lot of things in his much later life.
As his popularity increased so did his cynical nature, Ali often used boxing press conferences to discuss controversial topics like the Vietnam War, integration, and interracial marriages. He was arrested and sentenced to 5 years behind bars for refusing to participate in the Vietnam War. His reasons were very simple; his Muslim faith was against it and he was not going to fight against the Vietnamese and bomb them when he will come back to see people from his race treated like second class citizens.
Following this, the man got stripped of his titles and remained inactive for 4 years. However, Ali appealed successfully and had his conviction overturned.
He made a return to the ring in 1970 and defeated Jerry Quarry in that first fight. His next was in 1971 against the then world heavyweight titleholder Joe Frazier. Although he lost the fight, which was the first in his professional career, Ali earned $2.5 million – $15 million today. Ali would later beat Frazier in a rematch that didn’t involve a title. He then faced George Foreman in 1974 in a match dubbed “The Rumble in the Jungle”, Ali was again the underdog but proved yet again that he was indeed The Greatest by winning the match to claim the title a second time. He made $5.45 million, $26 million today.
He lost the title in 1978 to Leon Spinks but regained it in a rematch later the same year to make him the first heavyweight to win the title a record three times.
Ali had a number of other bouts in the latter days of his career, he first announced his retirement in the late 1970’s but suspended it, despite his waning health. Ali fought majorly for the money as he was rumoured to be nearly bankrupt. His bout versus Larry Holmes in 1980 which he lost, gave him the biggest paycheck of his boxing career- $7.9 million.
The Greatest retired in 1981. By the time he was retiring, he had already fought as much as 61 fights, winning 56 of these with 37 won by knockout. He only managed to record 5 losses. Of the 5 fights lost, it was only one that the man who is regarded as The People’s Champion lost by knockout.
During his retirement, Ali was by no means idle, he made appearances in many social and political gatherings. He was a guest referee at a WWE match and lit the flame at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Ali formed GOAT LLC (Greatest of All Time), a corporation that managed his endorsements and licensing. In 2006, he sold his 80% stake in the company for $50 million but maintained 20% which saw him earn at least $5 million yearly. It is said that the 20% stake could be worth somewhere between $30 and $50 million.
Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome in 1984 which was followed by subsequent sicknesses that lead to his death from septic shock in June 2016.