Ali won 56 times over his 21-year professional career and was actually the first boxer to claim the heavyweight title three times. His first 15 of 19 fights as a pro were knockouts. And as a teen, he went 100-8 as an amateur. Both Muhammad Ali and his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr., were named after a white abolitionist named Cassius Marcellus Clay, a 19th century Kentucky senator who is credited with helping gain Russia's support for the Union during the Civil War. Despite the senator's abolitionist mindset, he actually owned more slaves at the time of the abolition than when he inherited slaves from his father. Ali later denounced this "slavemaster's name" when he joined the Nation of Islam in 1964.
Upon returning to Louisville from the Olympics with his gold medal, legend holds that Clay threw his medal into the Ohio River following a series of racial harassment in his home city, including being denied to eat in a local restaurant. Although Ali denied the narrative simply saying the medal was "lost," he did receive a replacement medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
*Get an inside look at the Muhammad Ali Center right here as we report from Louisville, Kentucky next month.