Celebrity Fight Night
 
 

In 1954, 12-year-old Cassius Marcellus Clay's bike was stolen. Boiling with youthful rage, young Cassius found police officer, Joe Martin, and told him he was going to "whup" whoever stole his bike. Martin admonished, "You better learn to box first." Within weeks, Cassius had his first bout, and his first win.

For the next 27 years, Muhammad Ali would be in the ring bringing unprecedented speed and grace to his sport, while his charm and wit changed forever what we expect a champion to be. His accomplishments in the ring are the stuff of legend – the incredible upset in the championship fight with Sonny Liston, where he proclaimed himself "The Greatest"; three epic wars with Joe Frazier; the stunning victory over George Foreman in Zaire; and dethroning Leon Spinks to become the heavyweight champion for an unprecedented third time. But there was always far more to Muhammad Ali than what took place in a boxing ring.

In 1967, as the Vietnam War was escalating, Ali refused induction into the Army on the grounds of his religious beliefs. His title was immediately taken and he was not allowed to fight in the U.S. Convicted of refusing induction three months later, he faced a 5-year prison term. He was required to surrender his passport, which prevented his fighting outside the country as well. In 1970, after a 3-year layoff, Ali staged his comeback, first against Jerry Quarry and Oscar Bonavena, then for what was billed as, "The Fight," his first match against undefeated champ, Joe Frazier. On June 28, 1971, the Supreme Court reversed his conviction and upheld his conscientious objector status, freeing Ali to box anywhere in the world.

Championing the causes of the developing world has become a major focus of Muhammad's life. In 1998 Muhammad became a "Messenger of Peace" and a "Goodwill Ambassador" for the United Nations, and in 2002 he made a philanthropic trip to Afghanistan for the UN. Traveling across continents, the Champ has been instrumental in providing over 232 million meals to the world's hungry. Muhammad has received numerous honors for his humanitarian efforts including the Presidential Citizens Medal of Honor from President Clinton; the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush; and the Otto Hahn Peace Medal for his work with the civil rights movement and the United Nations. Additionally, Muhammad was presented the first C-100 Award in Davos, Switzerland for his contribution to dialogue and understanding between the Muslim and Western Worlds.

Muhammad and his wife Lonnie have been married 24 years. Together their mission is to bring tolerance and understanding among diverse people, communities, and nations. The Muhammad Ali Center opened in Louisville, Kentucky in November 2005. The Center serves as an international education, cultural and communications center that is inspired by the ideals of Muhammad and Lonnie Ali.