Well, someone didn’t know what a narrow escape they had; 1954 and a young Cassius Marcellus Clay Junior rode his new Schwinn bike, a birthday or a Christmas present depending on which source you read, to the auditorium in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. When he returned, his bike had been stolen.
He was a kid, so of course he was upset; and as a bike owner naturally he was also furious. He went to report the theft to a police officer he’d been told was training at a nearby gym.
Clay explained the situation to Officer Joe Martin, and reportedly threatened to “whup” the bike thief.
In response, Martin suggested, “Why don’t you learn something about fighting first?”
After helping Clay file the police report he invited the 12-year-old boy to join him at the gym and learn about boxing. It took six weeks of training with Martin before Clay won his first bout.
Many more triumphs and title wins later, in 1964 Clay announced he was a member of the Nation of Islam, a shocking move for the times, especially for a athlete so beloved of the nation. He shortly afterwards changed his name to Muhammad Ali, and went on to live a well documented life as a sportsman, a spokesman and a champion in life generally.
"I know where I'm going and I know the truth, and I don't have to be what you want me to be," he said at the time, stating his intent to define his career and his life on his own terms. "I'm free to be what I want."
And that 1954 bike thief? We should thank him for starting Ali down this path I guess ? But soooo close to having his arse handed to him on a plate.