by M ALI · 2001 · Cited by 3 — Page 1. iii. THE GREATEST. MUHAMMAD ALI. WALTER DEAN MYERS. New York. Page 2. THANKS TO BURT SUGAR, BOXING HISTORIAN, FOR HIS EARLY.
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THANKS TO BURT SUGAR, BOXING HISTORIAN, FOR HIS EARLY ENCOURAGEMENT; AND BILLY GILES, MIDDLEWEIGHT, AND JIMMY DUPREE, LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT, FOR THEIR PATIENCE AND INSIGHTS.If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as fiunsold and destroyedfl to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this fistripped book.flCopyright © 2001 by Walter Dean MyersAll rights reserved. Published by Scholastic Focus, a division of Scholastic Inc., Publishers since 1920. SCHOLASTIC, SCHOLASTIC FOCUS, and associated logos are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Scholastic Inc. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher. For informa-tion regarding permission, write to Scholastic Inc., Attention: Permissions Department, 557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012. First Scholastic paperback printing, November 2001ISBN 978-1-338-29014-110 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 18 19 20 21 22Printed in the USA 23This edition first printing 2018Book design by Kristina Albertson

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A BOXER™S DREAM The heavy black headlines of the Louisville Courier-Journal werws. Pearl Harbor had been attacked the month before, and the United States, which had been at peace since 1919, now found itself at war with both Japan and Germany. Young men across the country were volunteering to join the army, and the young men of Louisville, Kentucky, were no exception. Louisville, for mos t Americans, was known for the Kentucky Derby, the annual thoroughbred horse race. Race day at Churchill Downs, the stadium in which the derby was run, was a day of celebration and parties. The race itself was always preceded by the singing of the state song, fiMy Old Kentucky Home.fl Te sun sines brigt in my old Kentucky ome™Tis summer, t e darkies are gay. 3

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But on Saturday evening, January 17, 1942, Cassius Clay™s mind was not on the war or the Derby. His wife, Odessa, affectionately called fiBird,fl had just given birth to a baby boy in Louisville City Hospital. Cassius decided to give the boy his own name. He would be called Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. The name Clay was a famous one in Kentucky. Henry Clay had twice run for president and had served in Con -gress for over twe years. Cassius Marcellus Clay, al- though the son of a slaveholder, had been part of the antisla very movement. He published an abolitionist news- paper, the Examiner, in Louisville. He was also one of the founders of the Republican Party in 1854. Cassius Clay, Sr., named after the abolitionist, worked as a sign painter in Louisville. He prided himself on his work and had paint ed murals in many of the local black churches. His wife, Odessa, had been doing mostly do- mestic work since her teen years and attended a local Bap- tist church. The Clays lived on Grand Avenue, a quiet street in the west end of the city. While not in the profes- sional class, the Clays were doing moderately well when the new baby arrived. But how well a black family could do was limited by segregation . Under segregation, black people were n ot allowed t oeat in fiwhite-onlyfl restaurants, or attend the same schools, or even sit with whites on public transportation or in movie t heaters. This separation of people by race was legal and was enforced by the law. This did not mean that S R4

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whites and blacks did not get along. People, white and black, understood the firulesfl of segregation, and both races knew where they were welcome and where they were not. Cassius Clay, Sr., understood that he might never have a real relationship with a white person. He might work for a white man, or have a conversation with one, but the relationship would stop at the end of the day, or at the end of the line, or at whatever breaking off point maintained the status quo between whites and blacks. It was under this system of fiknowing one™s placefl that Cas- sius Jr., and his younger brother, Rudolph, would grow up. Ieatly. Cassius was a shy child. His early school days were not particularly eventful. He was not, lighters, a child- hood bully, but a good kid with a se nsitivity to injustice. In 1954, twelve-year-old Cassius rode his red-and- white Schwinn bicycle to the Columbia Auditorium in Louisville. He and a friend visited The Louisville Home Show, which was a predominately black trade show. There was free candy and popcorn, and a general air of excite- ment as local merchants displayed their goods. When it was time to go, Cassius found that his bicycle was miss ing. The Schwinn company made the most popular bicycles in the country, and Clay was angry and hurt that his had been stolen. The chance of h is family scraping t ogetherthe money for a new bicycle was slight, and Cassius was so upset that he was crying. He wanted to report the bicycle stolen and was told 5

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that there was a policeman in the basement. Cassius , Joe Martin, and told him what had hap- pened. He also added that when he found whoever had stolen his bike, he was going to beat him up. Joe Martin had been a member of the Louisville police force for years. He enjoyed working with young people, black and white, and taught boxing at the Columbia Gym. fiYou thinking about beating some body up, you had sius. That suited the boy. He wanted to teach the bike thief a lesson and in his twelve-year-old mind he could imagine himself beating up the perpetrator. Cassius started boxing lessons. Men who spend their lives teaching boys are a special breed. There is often a tenderness about them that is never expressed but that the child c an understand. Joe Martin was such a man. Arst, he didn™t think much of the new boy™s skills. Cassius was skinny and awkward. A lot of the other boys beat him in the ring; some beat him easily. But there was one thing that was different. Cassius would show up at the gym like clock workŠnone of the other boys were as dedicated. Whatever work Martin asked of him he did, and then some. Soon, he was tra ining six days a week with Martin and also with a black man named Fred Stoner. One of the most dife black men to see is the downward spiral of young black boys. Some S R6

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sius Clay™s dream depended on more than his determina- tion, even when he saw him training as much as six days a week. Cassius spent a lot of time with Stoner and appreci- ated what the black man was offering him. Stoner liked Cassius and his brother. He guessed that the Clay boys, who didn™t drink or smoke, came from the same economic background as the other boys who hung around the center. Young blac k boys, such as Cassius and Rudolph, who had working-class parents, didn™t go to symphonies and ballets. They grew up with little exposure fiI suppose Clay was a hungr,fl Stoner said. fiHe didn™mily. He didn™t have it too easy. We™re all out of the same bag.fl What Stoner perhaps suspected, and what the world was yet to know, was that boxin g would bring young Cassius Clay out of the cultural ghetto. Boxing would change his life forever. Joe Martin remembered that nothing seemed to dis- courage Cassius. Once, he was knocked unconscious but returned the next day to train against the boy who had knocked him out. Mart in produced a local t elevision show, Tomorrow™s Campions,and young Cassius began to appear on it. He thers. Two years later Cassius™s S R8

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dedication to training and his determination to improve were still there, but he wasn™t yet anything special. To boost his owne told other ycouldn™t beat him, that they couldn™t hurt him. He wasn™t a particularly hard puncher, but that didn™t stop him from announcing that he was going to knock out anyone he faced. By the time Cassius turned sixt een, things hadchanged. He was still thin, he was still a light hitter, but he had res and a coordination that old professionals in er seen. Heven the uled against him saw that he was good. Cassius was devoting more and more of his time to boxing. The winner of two national AAU (Amateur Ath- letic Union) titles, six Kentucky Golden Gloves, and t woGolden Gloves championships, his mind was set on a box- ing career. He dropped out of high school in March 1958. Central High™s tenth grade was not as attractive as the up- coming Olympics. He was being noticed bht fans around the country. By his eighteenth birthday, in 1960, there was no doubt about Cassius Clay™s boxing skills. There were still problems with his technique, though. Instead of mov ingaway from punches t he way most ghters did, h e wouldsimply lean back, judging the distance and velocity the punch would travel as it came toward his chin. It was a fundamental mistake. If, i n the heat of battle, he judged9

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wrong, he could have been hit hard. But he was fast enough to get out of harm™s way: His res were as sharp as anyone had ever seen. It takes more than bo. It takes the courage to stand up to an opponent, knowing that he wants to use his talent to hurt you as badly as he can. It also takes the ability to deal with two aspects of pain: theanticipation that you will be hurt, perhaps badly, and the knowledge that you can stop more pain simply by quit- ting. Cassius seemed to have the skills and the courage, and that™s what it would take to qualify for the Olympics, which were to be held that summer in Rome. To get to the Olympics he had to go through a series of om around the country. Oom each weight group would be sent to represent the United States. T trials were to be held in Cal i fornia. But Joe Martin, still working with Clay, discovered a problem: Cassius was artin convinced Cassius that there – wasn™t time for a long train ride across the country. During artin had to work hard to calm the young man down. It worked. Clay won the trials and o to Rome. Clay wasn™t heavy enough in 1960 to enter the Olym – pics as a heavyweight. Instead, he was entered in the 178-pound light heavyweight division. H thr ghts fairly easily. Clay h ad trained hard f or the S R10Training for the 1960 Olympic Games.

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