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Muhammad Ali, Former Heavyweight Champ and Humanitarian

In this Et Cetera, we celebrate a Louisvillian who has been referred to as “the most recognizable man on earth” - Muhammad Ali.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. on January 17, 1942, Ali grew up in Louisville’s Parkland neighborhood.

Having his bike stolen when he was 12 years old led to his interest in boxing. At that time he trained at Columbia Gym, under the guidance of Joe Martin—a Louisville policeman.

Shortly after graduating from Central High School in 1960, Ali won the gold medal as a light heavyweight in the summer Olympics. That same fall, he won his first professional fight … and was on his way to changing sports history forever. Muhammad Ali became the only boxer to win the heavyweight championship three times.

But there’s more to Muhammad Ali than boxing.

Later in his life, Ali became a goodwill ambassador — dedicating his time and stature to both international efforts and domestic charities alike.

For his tireless work, Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, our country’s highest civil award. It is one of his many accolades.

2005 also saw the opening of the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, a facility that showcases Ali’s boxing memorabilia and his life promoting peace throughout the world.

Quick facts about Muhammad Ali:

  • His 27-year career ended with 56 wins (37 by knockout) and 5 defeats.
  • Being a flamboyant and vocal fighter, earned Ali the nickname the “Louisville Lip.”
  • Ali returned to the Olympics in 1996, this time to light the flame at Opening Ceremonies.
  • Ali’s wife, formerly Yolanda “Lonnie” Williams, is also from Louisville.
  • On September 13, 1999 the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame recognized Ali as “Kentucky Athlete of the Century.”
Program 212
Elvis costumers, southern Indiana's Howard Steamboat Museum, celebrating Muhammad Ali, and a Kentucky Muse - artist Mary Ann Currier. Terry Blackwell, new CEO of Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana is our guest. (#212)