Boxing legend Muhammad Ali has sadly passed away at the age of 74. His family’s spokesman Bob Gunnell confirmed his death in Phoenix, Arizona, on Friday evening.
The three-time world heavyweight champion, who had battled Parkinson’s disease for 32 years, was admitted to hospital with a respiratory condition earlier in the week.
He was born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17 1942 and at the age of 12 he took up boxing and what led him to take up the sport was having his bicycle stolen.
One day in October 1954, Clay cycled his new $60 red and white Schwinn with a friend to the annual convention of the Louisville Service Club at the Columbia Auditorium. However, when they went to retrieve their bikes later, it had been stolen. Clay was furious and swore that he would “whup” whoever stole it.
Someone told him that there was a police officer in the basement of the building, so Clay went down there to report it to him. The police officer was Joe Martin and the basement turned out to be a boxing gym. Martin told Clay, that if he wanted to get revenge on whoever stole it, then “You better learn how to box first.”
Clay took him up on the offer and six weeks later, he had his first bout which he won. By the age of 18 he had won six Kentucky and two National Golden Gloves championships.
After winning a gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics in light-heavy-weight boxing, he decided to turn pro. In 1965, Clay fought Sonny Liston for his first World Championship title. The following day he renounced his “slave name” and would now be known as Muhammad Ali. He would go on to take the World title twice more during a remarkable career.
Ali would go on to become one of the most iconic and recognised sports stars ever, but it could have been very different if he didn’t have his bicycle stolen.