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Breaking Barriers | Muhammad Ali

Boxer Muhammad Ali had an impact well beyond just the sports world -- he broke barriers.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Muhammad Ali took the 20th century by storm with his boxing career. Sports Illustrated named him the greatest sportsman of the 20th century, and the BBC dubbed him the sports personality of the century. 

Beyond his impact in the sports world, he broke barriers. 

Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Cassius Clay began training as an amateur boxer at just 12 years old. At 18, Clay was Team USA's best hope for a boxing medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics. 

The boxing star hated flying so much, he bought a parachute and wore it for the duration of his flight to Rome in 1960.

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Clay breezed through his four fights on his way to gold with three unanimous decisions and a knockout. This was only the beginning for him. 

After the Olympics, Clay turned professional, beat Sonny Liston to become heavyweight champion, converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. 

"I am a minister of Muhammad and have been for the past good two years," he said. 

In 1966, he was drafted to fight in the Vietnam war. A year later, he chose not to serve, which led to his arrest and the stripping of his titles. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Ali's conviction in 1971. 

Ali returned to boxing with several high-profile bouts. He reclaimed the world heavyweight title while promoting peace and providing help to those who needed it. 

His daughter was asked about the civil unrest in America in 2020. 

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"I think he'd be full-fight. He'd be clear. He was a man of God. He would be prayerful. My father was a man who loved his country and every person in it, with every fiber of his being. One of the other messages would be to give back. My favorite quote of my father is, 'Service is the rent we pay for living here on earth, so remembering to give back builds a longer table, not a higher wall,'" said Khaliah Ali

At the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, Ali was the final torchbearer and lit the Olympic flame and in a memorable and emotional moment that proved to be one of the lasting images from Atlanta.

He died at age 74, in 2016, after battling Parkinson's disease. He remains an everlasting symbol of courage, independence and determination.

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