As stated Muhammad Ali’s (Cassius Clay at that time) was introduced to the world of boxing at the age of 12 completely by chance. A stolen bike led to an encounter with Joe Martin who besides being a policeman was running a boxing gym in the area. As a furious Clay stated his desire to hit the man who stole his bike (if found) Martin offered him a chance to train how to hit first.
Clay was mesmerised by the sight and smell of the gym and immediately took off. The first time he entered the ring the next day he was out of it in less than a minute with a bloodied nose. Of course, Clay 12 then knew nothing about boxing. Martin was his first coach; he wasn’t a trained professional coach but he knew enough to teach Clay the basics of the sport. Even from an early age, one thing was apparent to all, Clay had tremendous speed and a superior hand-eye coordination. Clay picked up soon enough and within 6 weeks he was ready to take part in his first amateur bout which was to be on a local television boxing program called Tomorrow’s Champions which Martin helped produce.
Clay’s opponent was 89 pound, Ronnie O’Keefe. 3 rounds later Clay emerged victorious after a split decision. After the fight clay senior proclaimed that Clay was a future heavyweight champion. What had started off as a lure to be on television was now a new life for Clay in his own words.
His amateur record was phenomenal. Clay relied on pace and had an extremely unorthodox boxing style. His incredible hand speed and lightening reflexes were his best friends. He was renowned for never standing still in a fight and instead almost dancing around the ring confusing opponents. He threw punches and yet moved around the ring at the same time unlike most boxers who had to be still to attack.
His amateur record is debated as there are no confirmed sources quoting the exact numbers. The most reliable records state an incredible 100 wins and only 5 losses though other records state numbers from 99-134 wins though the number of losses has never been quoted more than 7. What is undisputed is the fact that Clay won six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles and two national Amateur Athletic Union titles under Martin’s guidance.
Clay decided to turn pro in 1960 but before that there was one major stop on the Amateur Circuit, the 1960 Olympics