MUHAMMAD ALI EXHIBITION OPENS AT THE 02
By Ann Evans
I am The Greatest: Muhammad Ali at The 02 exhibition opened at the beginning of March, and tells the story of this legendary man who came from humble beginnings, went on to be the first boxer to hold the Heavyweight Champion of the World three times, and become one of the greatest sporting figures of the 20th century.
He was born Cassius Clay Jnr., on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky and it was all down to someone stealing his bicycle when he was just 12 years old that steered him towards boxing. As a young lad he reported his stolen bicycle to Louisville police officer, Joe Martin and vowed to pummel the culprit. Joe Martin happened also to be a boxing trainer, and he suggested that the boy should learn how to fight. Martin took Clay under his wing and six weeks later, Cassius Clay Jnr. had won his first fight.
There was no stopping him and by the time he was 18 he had won another 100 fights and picked up various titles. He had also developed a bravado that earned him the nickname the ‘Louisville Lip’. As well being a phenomenal boxer, his outspokenness about religion, race and politics made him a controversial figure. Turning professional in 1960, Clay changed his name to Muhammed Ali in 1964 after joining the nation of Islam.
Visitors to the Muhammad Ali exhibition will be able to discover the true story behind one of the most recognizable sports figures of the 20th Century, experiencing a taste of the ‘Muhammad Ali Center’, the museum in Louisville dedicated to the six core principles of Ali’s life.
A full size boxing ring allows the visitor to experience the thrill of the fights, be mesmerized by the grace and power of Ali the boxer and also the incredible amount of hard work, dedication and personal sacrifice that went into each fight. Visitors will also experience a taste of the gym, the pre-fight rituals and feel something of the excitement the fighter feels before a match.
The exhibition will feature personal artifacts belonging to Muhammad Ali, including:
- Muhammad Ali’s ‘Two Time World Champion’ rings from 1974 and 1978, presented to Drew ‘Bundini’ Brown
- Muhammad Ali’s worn 1980 headgear inscribed to Sylvester Stallone
- Torches and Participation Medals from the 1960 Rome Olympics, where Ali won the gold medal in boxing’s Light Heavyweight class in his last group of amateur fights.
Sadly, Parkinson’s syndrome has severely impaired Ali’s motor skills and speech, but he remains active as a humanitarian and goodwill ambassador. A spokesperson for the exhibition said that Ali’s is a story that resonates with our current world situation. His mantra of peace and understanding of his fellow man, be they rich or poor, black or white, regardless of their religion, is a powerful message that ‘I Am The Greatest’ will help visitors understand through the words, pictures and possessions of this warm, loveable and ultimately incredible man.
DID YOU KNOW
- Muhammad Ali was named ‘Fighter of the Year’ by Ring Magazine more times than any other fighter and is in the International Boxing Hall Of Fame, having won matches against seven of the other top boxers in Hall Of Fame.
- He is one of only three boxers to be named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated.
- Ali was awarded BBC Sports Personality of the Century in 1999 and was presented with both the Presidential Citizens Medal and the Presidential Medal Of Freedom at The White House in 2005.
- He also received an honorary doctorate of humanities from Princeton University in 2007 for his humanitarian work.
The Muhammad Ali: I am The Greatest at The O2, London runs until 31st August. For more details, and to book your tickets visit: http://www.theo2.co.uk/events/detail/i-am-the-greatest