Muhammad Ali was on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. When he was 12 years old, his bike was stolen and he told police officer Joe Martin that he wanted to “whup” the thief. Martin, who also worked as a boxing trainer, told Ali, “Well, you better learn how to fight before you start challenging people that you’re going to whip.”
In the ring, Muhammad Ali established himself as the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time, defeating such fighters as Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman. Outside the ring, Ali was outspoken on race, religion and politics, earning at first condemnation, but later admiration and status as an icon of the antiwar and civil rights movements.
Ali continued fighting until 1981, and the years of abuse he suffered in the ring took a toll on his health. In 1984, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which causes tremors, impaired speech and movement, and muscle rigidity.
Even as his health deteriorated, Ali continued making public appearances at sporting events and social causes. In 1996, he was chosen to light the cauldron during the opening ceremony of the Atlanta Olympics.
He has dedicated his life to charity and encourage others to strive for greatness. The Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, a museum and education center, strives to “share the legacy and ideals of Muhammad Ali, to promote respect, hope, and understanding, and to inspire adults and children everywhere to be as great as they can be.”