Muhammad Ali

Two major media outlets, the BBC and Sports Illustrated, named Ali Sportsman of the 20th Century. He was recognized as one of the most famous faces of the last century, and he made his personality — in which he famously boasted he could “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” — as big as his boxing skills. There has been no one like Muhammad Ali.

In 1964, he adapted the name Muhammad Ali (“Praiseworthy One”) after joining the Nation of Islam. He cited his faith as the reason for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War; this decision stirred controversy that took a hit to his career. Making a comeback in 1970, Ali reclaimed victory in elaborately named matches set in exotic locations like the “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman in Zaire and the “Thrilla in Manila” against Joe Frazier in the Philippines. He announced his retirement in 1981 after experiencing some defeats. Since then, the continuously active Ali has supported and donated to numerous charities and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

Muhammad Ali is found in...

10 Athletes That Changed Sports History
( 10 items )
Item Position (rank): 1