14
Jun
09

Muhammad ALi and Controversy

Cassius Clay

Cassius Clay

While training for his title bout against the fearsome heavyweight champion, Sonny Liston, Clay met Cap’n Sam, a Nation of Islam minister of the local Miami mosque. Cap’n Sam introduced Cassius to NOI spokesman, Malcolm X. Malcolm and young Cassius bonded on a deep level. Malcolm brought Cassius into the Nation of Islam. Despite the 7-1 odds, Clay upset Sonny Liston in Miami and became heavyweight champion of the world in 1964. The next day, Clay announced to the world that he was a member of the Nation of Islam and that his name was Cassius X. The X reflecting the unknown name that was taken from him by the slave owners centuries before.

The national response was immediate, negative and intense. Cassius X, soon to be given the name Muhammad Ali, by NOI founder, “The Messenger,” the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, chose to disassociate himself from his friend and mentor Malcolm X after the Messenger suspended Malcolm. Herbert Muhammad, eldest son of Elijah, was installed as Ali’s new manager as Ali continued to defend his crown against all comers. In 1967, as the Vietnam War was escalating, Ali was called up for induction into the Armed Services. Ali refused induction on the grounds of religious beliefs. He was, in fact, a practicing Muslim minister. This refusal led to the now-famous Ali quote, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong…”

The national furor over that comment combined with Ali’s refusal to be inducted into the Armed Services, caused virtually every state and local entity in America to cancel Ali’s boxing licenses. Ali’s fight with Ernie Terrell became famous when Terrell incensed Ali at the weigh-in by calling him “Clay.” Ali pounded him in the ring with taunts of, “What’s my name?!!”

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