In honor of the latest Ken Burns documentary, Muhammad Ali, which premieres September 19 on PBS, we float like a butterfly to some of the places where the boxer famously stung like a bee.
Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was born on January 17, 1942, and grew up in a small house on Grand Avenue in the West End. That house is landmarked, although it’s a flyweight next to the heavyweight Muhammad Ali Center on downtown’s Museum Row.Book Your Flight to Louisville
Just 18 years old, Clay won the gold medal in light heavyweight boxing at the 1960 Summer Olympics. Among all the athletes, his charisma shone through. “He even made friends with the Russians,” noted one reporter.Book Your Flight to Rome
On February 25, 1964, Clay shocked the world by defeating Sonny Liston and becoming the heavyweight champion of the world. “I’m pretty! I shook up the world!” he shouted afterward. He was 22 years old.Book Your Flight to Miami
On March 6, 1964, the head of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad, gave a radio address in which he bestowed upon Clay, who had recently converted to Islam, the name Muhammad Ali. (The act was partially a power move to ensure the boxer didn’t follow his friend Malcolm X, who had split from the Nation.)Book Your Flight to Chicago
On April 28, 1967, at the old post office in Houston, Ali, who had been drafted, refused to be inducted into the U.S. military. “I don’t have no personal quarrel with those Viet Congs,” he had previously said. He was stripped of his titles and boxing license and sentenced to prison. He would not fight again for three years.Book Your Flight to Houston
On March 8, 1971, Ali lost the “Fight of the Century,” a 15-round unanimous decision, to his greatest rival, Joe Frazier, at Madison Square Garden. In 1974, Ali won their rematch, a 12-round unanimous decision, also at MSG.Book Your Flight to New York City
On October 30, 1974, Ali and George Foreman squared off in perhaps the most famous fight in history, the “Rumble in the Jungle” in what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ali “rope-a-doped” the champ, Foreman, in the early rounds before knocking him out in the eighth to take the title.
Quezon City, Philippines
On October 1, 1975, Ali and Frazier fought for the third and final time, in the “Thrilla in Manila.” Ali was declared the victor when Frazier didn’t come out for the 15th round. Ali called the bout “the closest thing to dying that I know of.”Book Your Flight to the Philippines
On December 11, 1981, Ali lost his final professional fight, to Trevor Berbick. He finished his pro career with a 56-5 record.Book Your Flight to Nassau
On July 19, 1996, Ali, visibly stricken with Parkinson’s disease, lit the flame during the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics. An estimated audience of 3.5 billion people watched.Book Your Flight to Atlanta
Next Up: Frequent Flyer: Bonnie Bernstein