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Muhammad Ali

(1942-2016), Boxer; heavyweight champion and Olympian

Sitter in 4 portraits
African-American boxer, activist and philanthropist. Born in Kentucky as Cassius Clay he took up boxing as a teenager, carving a niche for himself as a professional. He changed his name when he converted to Islam in 1965. In an interview in 1967 he stated "Muhammad means one who's worthy of all praises and one who's praiseworthy and Ali means the most high. But Clay only meant dirt with no ingredients ... Cassius Clay was the name of the white slave master." Ali was outspoken and a lifelong ambassador for his chosen faith, taking every opportunity to share his experiences and understanding of Islam in interviews. He was renowned for the 'Ali Shuffle', a unique foot manoeuvre designed to outwit his opponents. He went on to win the heavyweight championship of the world three times. He won gold in boxing at the 1960 Rome Olympics, the first Olympics to be televised making him a household name globally. As a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, he refused to be drafted into the army for which he was arrested, charged with draft evasion and stripped of his boxing titles. The decision was appealed and later overturned. His political activism and support of the civil rights movement gave him iconic status from the emerging counterculture generation.

More on Muhammad Ali: The Icons trail: discover the people who shaped the 20th Century

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The Beatles and Muhammad Ali, then called Cassius Clay, by Harry Benson - NPG x202584

The Beatles and Muhammad Ali, then called Cassius Clay

by Harry Benson
modern gelatin silver print, 18 February 1964
On display at Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia, USA
NPG x202584

Jabir Herbert Muhammad; Muhammad Ali; Michael X, by Graham Keen - NPG x199759

Jabir Herbert Muhammad; Muhammad Ali; Michael X

by Graham Keen
modern bromide print from original negative, 13 May 1966
NPG x199759

Muhammad Ali, by Rex Coleman, for  Baron Studios - NPG x125764

Muhammad Ali

by Rex Coleman, for Baron Studios
5 x 4 inch film negative, 23 May 1966
NPG x125764

Harry Goodwin; Muhammad Ali; John Conteh, by Harry Goodwin - NPG x87881

Harry Goodwin; Muhammad Ali; John Conteh

by Harry Goodwin
bromide fibre print, 1970s
NPG x87881

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