Boxing Legend Muhammad Ali: A Timeline Including the Rumble in the Jungle

Muhammad Ali

Legendary heavyweight champion and social icon Muhammad Ali waved goodbye to mother earth at 9 p.m. on Friday MST time, after battling with Parkinson’s disease for years.

Ali, who will fondly be remembered for his razzmatazz, mesmerizing and lightening boxing skills, retired from boxing in 1981 and has become a role model to other inspiring boxers across the world.

Doctors say the Parkinson’s was probably caused by the thousands of punches Ali took during a career in which he travelled the world for big fights.

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The Rumble in the Jungle

The Rumble in the Jungle was a historic boxing event in 1974 in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Held on the 20th of May Stadium on the night of October 30, 1974, it pitted the undefeated world heavyweight champion George Foreman against challenger Muhammad Ali, a former heavyweight champion. Attendance was about 60,000. Ali won by knockout, putting Foreman down just before the end of the eighth round. It has been called “arguably the greatest sporting event of the 20th century.”

A true hero

His family’s spokesman Bob Gunnell confirmed Ali’s death in Phoenix, Arizona, on Friday evening local time.

The funeral will take place in Ali’s home town of Louisville, Kentucky.

A statement from the spokesman said the Ali family “would like to thank everyone for their thoughts, prayers and support” and asked for privacy.

Ali, hailed as “The Greatest”, is survived by his fourth wife Lonnie – whom he married in 1986 – and multiple children, many of whom were reported to have flown to their father’s bedside on Thursday and Friday.

At his last public appearances, he looked increasingly frail, including on April 9 when he wore sunglasses and was hunched over at the annual Celebrity Fight Night dinner in Phoenix, which raises funds for Parkinson’s treatment.

Muhammad Ali (L) punches Richard Dunn while fighting for the WBC & WBA Heavyweight Title in Munich, Germany May 24, 1976. Action Images / Sporting Pictures/Files
Muhammad Ali (L) punches Richard Dunn while fighting for the WBC & WBA Heavyweight Title in Munich, Germany May 24, 1976. Action Images / Sporting Pictures/Files

Muhammad Ali: A Timeline

1942 — Born Cassius Clay on January 17, in Louisville, Kentucky.

1954 — Begins training as a boxer after his bicycle is stolen. Over the next six years, Clay wins six Kentucky Golden Gloves championships, two national Golden Gloves titles, and two AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) crowns.

1960 — Clay wins light-heavyweight gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Rome, beating Poland’s Zbigniew Pietrzykowski in a 5-0 decision. In October, he wins his first professional bout, against Tunney Hunsaker.

1964 — On February 25, Clay goes up against favored Sonny Liston. In what will become his trademark, Clay begins taunting Liston, calling him an “ugly old bear,” promising to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Clay is credited with a knockout and becomes the heavyweight champion of the world after Liston fails to come out of his corner for the seventh round. Clay coins the phrase “I am the greatest!” — a phrase for which he will forever be known.

On February 26, Clay joins the Nation of Islam, and on March 6, he changes his name to Muhammad Ali.

1966 — Citing his religious beliefs, Ali files for conscientious objector status and refuses to serve in U.S. military, which is involved in the Vietnam War at the time.

1967 — The U.S. government denies his status. Ali is convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to a maximum five years in prison and fined $10,000. The New York Boxing Association takes back his titles and bans him from boxing for three years.

1970 — The New York State Supreme Court orders his boxing license reinstated.

1971 — In March, Ali fights heavyweight champ Joe Frazier in Madison Square Garden, but loses after 15 rounds, in a unanimous decision.

Later that year, Supreme Court rules in his favor, reversing the 1967 draft-evasion conviction, saying he should not have been drafted in the first place due to his religious beliefs.

1974 — In January, Ali beats Frazier. Later that year, he beats George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle,” and reclaims the world heavyweight champion title.

1975 — Ali again faces Frazier, beats him in fight known as “The Thrilla in Manila.”

1978 — In Februrary, Ali loses the heavyweight title to Leon Spinks; regains it six months later by beating Spinks.

1981 — Ali loses a unanimous decision to Trevor Berbick. In December, he announces his retirement — at age 39 — ending his career with a professional record of 56 wins, 5 losses, 37 knockouts.

1984 — He is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

1996 — Ali carries the Olympic flame for Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia.

1997 — Sports Illustrated names Ali Sportsman of the Century.

2005 — Ali is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian honor, by then – President George W. Bush.

2009 — Ali attends the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

2016 — Dies June 3 in Phoenix, Arizona. He was married four times and had nine children.