Terrific Tuesday: “Sting Like a Bee”

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It was on this day 50 years ago that a 22-year-old Kentucky native, named Cassius Clay, stunned the odds makers and boxing enthusiasts by knocking out Sonny Liston, the world heavyweight boxing champion.

Liston was a huge favorite to win, but the ever-confident Clay predicted a win for himself, boasting that he would “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” and knock out Liston in the eighth round.

It didn’t take that long for the young boxer to claim victory. Liston fell in the seventh round. The world had a new heavyweight boxing champion.

Clay joined the Nation of Islam shortly after the win and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. His refusal to join the U.S. Army and fight in the Vietnam War in 1967 was controversial and led to U.S. boxing authorities removing his title of world champion. Although Ali, considered a conscientious objector, was sentenced to five years in prison and given a $10,000 fine, he appealed the case and remained out on bail. The decision was reversed in 1971 by the U.S. Supreme Court. Nevertheless, Ali’s beliefs cost him years of prime boxing time and money.

Seldom at a loss for words, Ali was a colorful sports champion. “When you are as great as I am, it is hard to be humble.”

Yet, he also gave sound advice: “Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer.”

Among his inspirational quotes is “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’ ”

Ali did just that. He became one of the world’s most recognized sports figures and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.

 

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