Muhammad Ali – the life of a people’s champion

Muhammad Ali - image credit
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source: Socialist Worker
published: 7 June 2016

Muhammad Ali captivated the world when he became world heavyweight boxing champion in 1964. He mixed extraordinary grace and speed in the ring with a larger than life personality outside it.

He combined overt radical politics with an obvious pride in himself. He refused to let the media define who he was or how he should behave.

As Mike Marqusee, author of a brilliant biography Redemption Song suggests, he was somebody who characterised “the spirit of the 1960s”.

Born Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky on the 17th January 1942, he first came to international prominence when he won the light heavyweight boxing title at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

Despite returning to his homeland as a champion, he was still subjected to the humiliating institutional discrimination that blighted the lives of black people in the US.

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