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The Greatest celebrates

FACE CONNECTER: Cassius Clay takes a swing at Sonny Liston in their 1964 match (PA)

FIFTY YEARS ago a star was born. A young Cassius Clay, just 22, took on the might and brute force of the feared champion Sonny Liston in their world heavyweight fight in Miami Beach, Florida on February 25, 1964.

The brash champion literally shook the world when he dethroned Liston – who threw in the towel in the sixth round- to claim the heavyweight title for the very first time.

The historic win was to be the last time that Clay fought under his real name, announcing after that he was joining the religious black power movement, the Nation of Islam, and changing his name to Muhammad Ali.

One of the sport’s biggest upsets was to launch Ali to superstardom, bringing Ali international fame, giving him the stage to successfully protest everything from racial segregation to the Vietnam War, while declaring himself to be "The Greatest."

The boxer’s career initially got underway as an amateur. Clay won the gold medal at the Rome Olympics in 1960 but was still unhappy at his lack of acceptance by whites.

However, he went on to become the most recognised sports man in the world and to this day generates admiration from most of the world. He was to win the heavyweight crown – the most respected prize in sport – again in 1974 and 1978.

Ali is today widely regarded by millions for not only the skills he displayed in the ring but also the values he exemplified outside of it: religious freedom, racial justice and the triumph of principle over expedience.

Since his glory days he has lived with Parkinson’s Disease. He has faced his latest battle with dignity.

Muhammad Ali remains The Greatest. No question.

For the record

Fights: 61

Won: 56

Lost: 5

KOs: 37

He said:

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth”

“I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was”

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”

“The man who has no imagination has no wings”

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