The greatest boxer of the modern era is Muhammad Ali. There is generally no question about this in the boxing circles. However, there are those who would argue that there were others who were just as great. Ali was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and was first called Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., but changed his name in the late 1960s after adopting Islam as his religion.
Ali was not only one of the greatest heavyweight boxers ever to step into the ring, but also a deeply spiritual person who defied the United States government by standing on his ethics. He was a controversial and divisive man who elicited great emotion from those who loved him, and those who wanted him jailed.
Ali was on top of his profession in the late 60s when his draft classification was changed. He was ordered to enlist in the Army, but he refused. He claimed that he could not go to war because of his religious convictions. Many saw this move by the U.S. government as a way to silence the outspoken boxer because he was well beyond the age most young American men were being drafted at the time. Ali was stripped of his title, and was banned from boxing, while his case went through the U.S. court system. Ali was inactive during his ablest years from the age 25 to almost 29. There is no telling how many more victories and titles he could have won during his stolen prime.
Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an 8 - 0 decision in Ali's favor, overturning his conviction of draft evasion. His stance was not popular at the time among conservative Americans; many people disliked him very much, but his determination and moral principles held up his decision. He is now regarded as one of the most influential persons in the history of the U.S. He was named "Sportsman of the Century" by Sports Illustrated magazine, and "Sports Personality of the Century" by the BBC.