Before He Was Muhammad Ali: The Amateur Boxer Who Won Gold at the 1960 Olympics

in Nonfiction by
The boxer won the Light Heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome when he was just 18 years old.
(L-R) Wilbur “Skeeter” McClure, Cassius Clay and Eddir Crook of the U.S. boxing team pose with their gold medals at the Rome 1960 Olympic Games on Sept. Courtesy of Team USA

Early on in his career, Muhammad Ali went by his given name: Cassius Clay. As one of the most significant athletes of the 20th century, Ali has held his fair share of titles—notably winning heavyweight titles at the age of 22—but one of his first was that of Olympic gold medalist.

During the 1960 Summer Olympic Games in Rome, Ali beat out Polish boxer Zbigniew Pietrzykowski for the gold before turning professional later that year. But there’s much more to Ali than just his career as a boxer. In addition to his athletic accomplishments, Ali was also an activist and poet. Told in Ali’s own words, and by those of his friends and family, Thomas Hauser’s biography, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times, details everything from the boxer’s personal struggles to his public triumphs.

Read on for an excerpt about his time at the 1960 Summer Olympics, and then download the book. 

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