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The weekend of September 15 was one of the busiest of the year for boxing with several title fights taking place in Las Vegas, which were broadcast by HBO and Showtime.
Through it all, it seems like Muhammad Ali, on a rare occasion, was actually lost in the shuffle and overlooked by boxing fans.
Many of them were unaware that The Greatest was honored with the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia by the National Constitution Center. He was awarded the medal for his role across the globe in the struggle for liberty.
The crowd on hand gave the 70-year-old former world heavyweight champion a standing ovation and Ali acknowledged their love by raising his hand. Ali has been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for many years now and his wife Lonnie Ali spoke to the crowd on his behalf.
She said her husband is a great believer in humanity and has always focused his energy on the people of all races and religions, bel;ieving the most important race is the human race.
The Liberty Medal was established in America back in 1988 as a way to commemorate and celebrate the U.S. Constitution’s bicentennial year. The medal is awarded each year to men and women who display conviction and courage in their efforts to promote worldwide liberty to people.
The medal also comes with a cash award of $100,000. Some of the most famous past winners of the medal include U2 singer Bono, Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Sandra Day O’Connor, Colin Powell, Mikhail Gorbachev and Hollywood movie maker Steven Spielberg.
During the ceremony, a tribute video of Ali’s remarkable life was displayed to those in attendance. For those of you who aren’t familiar with his life story, Ali was born in Louisville, Kentucky as Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. he started boxing as a 12-year-old under the tutelage of a local policeman named Joe Martin after somebody stole his bicycle. Ali learned the intricacies of boxing very quickly and won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rome, Italy in 1960 as a light heavyweight.
Ali beat the heavily favoured Sonny Liston for the world heavyweight title in 1964 in Miami, Florida and then changed his name form Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali shortly after the bout when he announced that he was converting to Islam.
His world championship was stripped from him after Ali stated that he wouldn’t join the U.S. Army after being drafted due to his religious beliefs. He was convicted and released but that conviction was then overthrown in 1971 by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ali resumed his boxing career and won the heavyweight title twice more. He was involved in some of boxing’s greatest fights such as the Thrilla in Manila when he took on and beat Joe Frazier and the Rumble in the Jungle when he regained the title by knocking out George Foreman.
He retired from the sport in 1981 after a decision loss to Trevor Berbick, who would later go on to win the heavyweight crown and then lose it to Mike Tyson.
Former President Bill Clinton was on hand for the ceremony and said it’s fitting that Ali be awarded the Liberty Medal in 2012 since it’s the 225th anniversary of the U. S. Constitution. Clinton then praised Ali for all of his selfless humanitarian work across the world.
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