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One of the most recognizable figures in the world during his lifetime, heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, previously Cassius Clay and Cassius X, put his self-esteem on display with the simple declaration “I am the greatest.” This was a phrase he told himself long before he truly was the greatest, but he proved it to the world in 1964 when he defeated defending champion Sonny Liston. Upon knocking out his dangerous, violent, and cheating opponent, Ali whipped himself into a frenzy, as onlookers saw him fall over the ropes, scream at the ringside reporters who had previously doubted him, and chant “I am the greatest!” and “I’m a bad man!” as loudly as he could. In the face of overwhelming doubt, a public that did not believe in him, parents that disowned him, and a white Christian society that feared and hated him, Ali claimed one of the most important social and sporting titles in the world. To this day, boxing fans, experts, and historians have largely come to agree with him; Muhammad Ali was the greatest professional boxer that ever lived.



Thesis Comittee

Dr. Brian Payne, Thesis Advisor

Dr. Sarah Wiggins, Committee Member

Dr. Thomas Nester, Committee Member

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Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.

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