Remembering The Legend: A Peek Inside The $80 Million Empire Of Muhammad Ali

Known as one of the greatest athletes of all time, Muhammad Ali broke records, spoke up when others would not and though he passed away nearly six years ago, he remains an icon for many reasons.

Ali had a net worth of $80 million at the time of his passing. During the peak of his career, the American boxer was one of the highest-paid athletes in the world.

Take a look back at the famous boxer’s life and how he’s continuing to make a difference even today.

Early Challenges Create Lifelong Goals

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Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in Louisville, Ky, Ali was one of six children, encountering struggles and challenges throughout childhood. Ali had a learning disability, making academics more difficult for him and in the midst of pre-civil rights movement in the mid-40’s and 50’s he remembered many racial judgements from being denied a drink of a certain water fountain to the violence he saw against people of color.

An Angry Teen Finds Boxing

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As a tween, Ali showed his anger in response to the 1955 murder of Emmett Till and again, when his bike was stolen. A police officer recommended Ali channel that anger into boxing and little did they know, a star was born. At the age of 12, Ali found boxing coach Fred Stoner and the pair would win multiple amateur championships, showcasing the boxer’s talent and desire to succeed.

With an amateur record of 100 wins and five losses, Ali won six Kentucky Golden Gloves, an Amateur Athletic Junior Title and two National Golden Gloves. The young athlete took home the gold medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome and cemented a career in the making.

Boxing Career

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Ali showed a unique boxing style as he entered professional boxing in late 1960. Instead of keeping his hands high above his face, Ali preferred to use speed to avoid the punches and kept his hands low. He wasn’t afraid to talk a big game, often predicting which round he would knock out his opponent – quite often, he was right.

In 1964, in a fight against current heavyweight champion Sonny Liston, the 22-year-old boxer beat Liston becoming the youngest fighter to ever steal the title from a champion. According to History, his typical braggadocio caused the famous boxer to claim he would “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”, a phrase that has likely been repeated millions of times across the globe.

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In 1970, Ali famously took on the current heavyweight title holder Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The two undefeated contenders went 15 rounds, ultimately ending in Ali’s first professional loss. He defeated Liston in a later match, and then reclaimed the heavyweight title in a match against George Foreman nearly a decade later.

He remains the only three-time lineal heavyweight champion in history according to Celebrity Net Worth and boasts a career record of 56 wins and five losses, including 37 knockouts.

His biggest payday earned him $5.45 million in the fight against George Foreman in 1974, equal to $26 million today.

In 2006, Ali sold the rights to his name and image for $50 million, including a 20 percent interest in his licensing, creating a $7 million annual revenue still today.

Changing His Name and Converting to Islam

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In the same year Ali defeats Liston, he also joins the Nation of Islam, officially changing his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. He had been seen in the company of Malcom X in the weeks prior to his announcement to the public and in the spring of 1964, the Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad bestowed his new name upon him.

Speaking Up and Against the Vietnam War

Ali made national headlines in 1967 when he refused to serve his military draft on the grounds that he was a practicing Muslim minister. He was arrested for committing a felony, according to Biography, and was stripped of his world title and boxing license.

Sentenced to five years for draft evasion, Ali remained free while appealing his conviction. The Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 1971 and Ali was able to resume his professional career.

Family and Personal Life

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Ali married four times, welcoming a total of nine children (seven daughters and two sons), one of which, Laila went on to become a professional boxer, retiring in 2007. At the time of his death, Ali was married to Yolanda “Lonnie” Williams and the couple have one adopted son together.

According to Ali’s will, each of his children received $6 million and his widow, Williams, received the rest.

A Fight Against Parkinson’s

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Just three years after Ali’s official retirement he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome, a degenerative neurological condition. As his motor skills slowly declined and his movement and speech became limited, Ali once again, rallied against the odds.

He remained in the public spotlight continuing his humanitarian and charitable efforts. He met with Saddam Hussein in 1990 to negotiate the release of American hostages and was sent to Afghanistan in 2002 as a United Nations Ambassador. Ali raised funds for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center and supported Special Olympics and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Recognized Later in Life

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The famous athletic icon lit the Olympic cauldron at the 1996 Olympics and continued to receive awards, decades after retirement.

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2005. He also received the President’s Award from Barak Obama from the NAACP for his public service accomplishments.

At his funeral, good friends such as former President Bill Clinton, comedian Billy Crystal and Malcom X’s eldest daughter Attallah Shabazz spoke. Pallbearers included actor Will Smith, who portrayed Ali in the 2001 biopic by the same name and former heavyweight champions Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis.

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Sources: History, Celebrity Net Worth, Biography

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