His Life In Pictures - Muhammad Ali

Boxer, social activist and icon to millions, sporting great Muhammad Ali today celebrates his 70th birthday. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky in the heart America's segregated south, Ali rose to global fame as a charismatic individual who was always up for a fight - whether it be inside or outside the ring.

Having boxed as an amateur since 1954, the man then still known as Cassius Clay first rose to prominence as a member of the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team at the 1960 Rome games. During these early fights, it became clear that Clay was a real talent, light on his feet and in possession of a powerful jab. After winning his first three bouts, Clay then beat Poland's Zbigniew Pietrzkowski to win the gold medal.

In 1963, Cassius Clay faced a highly-anticipated fight against British boxing great Henry Cooper at London's Wembley Stadium. Despite being floored by 'Enry's 'Ammer', Clay came out victorious after a deep cut ended Cooper's challenge in the fifth.

By now, Clay's talent, braggadocio, charisma and colourful turn of phrase had seen him become a household name around the world, and he was soon posing for photo opportunities with other icons of the time, such as The Beatles.

Despite being a rank outsider prior to the fight, Clay managed to dethrone defending champion Sonny Liston at the tender age of 22. Liston retired in the seventh, helping Clay to break the record for the youngest ever heavyweight champion of the world.

A rematch the following year ended in controversial circumstances after Liston was floored in the first round by what became known as Ali's 'phantom punch'.

After much spiritual searching, Clay decided to follow the influence of social activist Malcolm X and join black Muslim group the Nation of Islam. Initially, he decided to drop his 'slave name' Clay and asked to be addressed as Cassius X. Eventually, however, he settled on the Islamic monicker Muhammad Ali.

Ali successfully defended his title and cemented his self-proclaimed status as 'the greatest' by flooring former title-holder Floyd Patterson in Las Vegas.

That victory would come in the African nation of Zaire (modern day Democratic Republic of Congo) in the so-called 'Rumble in the Jungle' - one of boxing promoter Don King's first professional ventures. Ali defeated then-heavyweight champion George Foreman, knocking him out in the eighth.

Ali met Joe Frazier for a third time in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines in 1975 in a fight branded the 'Thrilla in Manila'. Widely considered one of the greatest fights in boxing history, the bitter rivalry between the two men came to a brutal climax and saw Ali emerging victorious in the 15th, winning by TKO.

In February 1978, Ali lost his heavweight title to 1976 Olympic Light-Heavyweight Champion Leon Spinks, but went on to fight a rematch later in the year which would see him win the WBA version of the Heavyweight title for a record third time.

Ali's final fight came in 1981 in Nassau, Bahamas and pitted him against the up-and-coming Trevor Berbick. Ali lost the bout by unanimous decision after 10 rounds.

In September 1984, Ali announced that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's syndrome, a neurological disease prevalent in those who have suffered severe head trauma. After being diagnosed with the condition, Ali told reporters: 'I'm always tired'.

Despite his disability, Ali has remained a highly active public figure, and lit the Olympic torch during the opening ceremony of the 1996 Atlanta games.

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