Muhammad Ali, 74Len Trievnor/Express/Getty Images
The most famous man on the planet. The most thrilling heavyweight ever. The greatest boxer of all time. At his peak, Muhammad Ali, who died of septic shock in June, was all of the above. His speed in the ring seemed to be matched only by his motormouth, which made him one of the most polarizing athletes of his day.
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"Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them — a desire, a dream, a vision."- Muhammad Ali
In 1963, photographer Steve Schapiro met a young Ali – still known then as Cassius Clay – at his mother’s home in Louisville, Ky. “He’d shadowbox around the living room, but beyond that, he wasn’t the Ali that you knew publicly, boasting and bragging,” Schapiro said.
Steve Schapiro/Corbis/Getty Images
Schapiro captured another side of Ali, an attentive, polite son who delighted the neighborhood kids and playfully mugged for the camera. He stood in sharp contrast to the boxer who brimmed with braggadocio in front of TV cameras.
Ali jokes around with neighborhood kids outside his mother's house in Louisville, Ky.
Ali admires himself in the mirror at local barbershop.
Ali began boxing at age 12, when his bicycle was stolen. He told a police officer that he would “whup” the thief -- and the officer suggested that he learn how to fight.
Ali hugs his mother, Odessa Grady Clay.
Massive hype accompanied his fights, which often bore names like action movies. There was “The Fight of the Century” against Joe Frazier in 1971, “The Rumble in the Jungle” against then-champion George Foreman in 1974 and “The Thrilla in Manila” in 1975, Ali’s third and last rematch against Frazier.
Outside the ring, Ali became an outspoken critic of mainstream America’s attitudes on race, politics and religion throughout the 1960s and ’70s, attracting fans and detractors alike. He converted to the Nation of Islam, casting off what he called his “slave name,” Cassius Clay. After resisting the draft during the Vietnam War, he was stripped of his heavyweight title and banned from the ring for more than three years.
Ali also built a legacy as a humanitarian, working with the Special Olympics and Make-A-Wish Foundation and serving as a U.N Messenger of Peace, despite suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Among his many awards and accolades was a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, installed in 2002 -- a recognition not only of his two spoken-word albums, but of his ability as a showman. Tourists looking for his name shouldn’t look down, though: Ali’s star is the only one not actually on the Walk, but on a wall of the Dolby Theatre. The boxer did not want the name of the prophet Muhammad to be stepped on.
"I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world."- Muhammad Ali