Muhammad Ali, originally Cassius Marcellus Clay, in his lifetime became one of the best and .
most controversial sports figures of all time. His upfront attitude and devotion to the .
Muslim religion made him a role model for many people. Perhaps the most surprising thing .
he did was changing is name to Muhammad Ali after becoming a Muslim. .
Ali, then still going by Cassius Clay, first came to world attention in 1960, when he won .
the Olympic light-heavyweight championship. After his surprising victory over then .
heavyweight champion Sonny Liston in 1964, he produced a steady stream of headlines. He .
was the first boxer to benefit from international television, making him all the more .
visible to the world. In his second fight with Liston, more controversy arose over the way .
Liston went down and stayed down in the initial round. Ali, however, proved to be a .
"fighting champion," accepting the challenges of every heavyweight he had a chance to .
He was stripped of his title in 1967 for refusing military service on religious grounds .
during the Vietnam War. He claimed, "If going to war, and possible dying, would help .
twenty-two million blacks in this country gain freedom, justice and equality, I would join .
tomorrow." He also said that he would not help kill poor people in other countries when it .
is happening to his own people in America. He was allowed to resume fighting in 1970 and .
had his appeal of conviction upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971. Ali regained the .
championship in a 1974 bout with George Foreman. He lost the crown again in 1978 to Leon .
Spinks but regained it the same year, thus becoming the first man to win the title three .
times. Other than Joe Frazier and Spinks, the only boxers to defeat Ali, who had a 55-5 .
record, were Ken Norton, who later lost to Ali; Larry Holmes, who foiled Ali's try for a .
fourth heavyweight championship; and Trevor Berbick, who defeated Ali after a failed .