Born in Kentucky and named Cassius Marcellus Clay after a 19th Century abolitionist politician, Muhammed Ali was a sporting genius who went on to embody a social conscience that honoured the origins of his first moniker. But he also had a hard edge that helped him knock out his public as effectively as any opponent.
Thoughtful, eloquent, antagonistic in interviews and always keen to court controversy Ali realised that being a good story was often more important career-wise than being a good boxer. He adopted the practice of talking smack before fights – often predicting beforehand the round in which he would finish off his opponent.
I hated every minute of training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”Muhammad Ali
The notoriety associated with his massive ego and controversial moves such as joining the Nation of Islam – the move that prompted his adoption of the name Muhammad Ali – and refusing the military draft to fight in Vietnam (“I ain’t got no quarrel with the Viet Cong”) only served to increase the hype surrounding his fights.
Clough, I’ve had enough. Stop itMuhammad Ali takes on managerial legend (and PM hero) Brian Clough
As a result of his ego, no boxer before or since has become as famous as Ali. Debate still rages about the results of many of his fights, largely due to the amount of controversy and column inches the man himself generated.
Certainly, regardless of his incredible skill as a fighter, it is hard to see Ali becoming such a high-profile figure were it not for his well-honed, rumbustious image. His famous 1974 bout against George Foreman, the Rumble in the Jungle, drew thousands of viewers, and became the subject of both a Norman Mailer book and the Oscar-winning documentary When We Were Kings.
Sportsman, cultural icon, social activist, iconoclast, master media manipulator… you could fill a page with words to describe Muhammad Ali. But the one that encapsulates them is one of his many nicknames: “The Greatest”.
Happy birthday, Mr Ali.
MANAGEMENT UPS AND DOWNS
Just appointed as manager of QPR, replacing Neil Warnock. Hughes quit QPR’s West London neighbour Fulham after 11 month in charge, questioning the club’s ambition in the process.
For not picking Monty Panesar on a track that seems to be a spinners paradise in the first test against Pakistan in Dubai. NB: we may have called this wrong, but that’s the PM hunch after the first two sessions of the test!
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Ali was a master of self-promotion. CMI members can learn more about public relations here