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Muhammad Ali

The Louisville Lip

Almost immediately, Clay signed one of the most lucrative contracts in boxing history, which guaranteed a 50/50 split in his earnings with eleven Kentucky millionaires

Muhammad Ali

known as the Louisville Sponsoring Group. He hired Angelo Dundee as his first professional trainer, and easily dispatched his opponent, Tunney Hunsacker, in his first professional match, on October 29, 1960. The purse was $2,000. Over the next 4 years he fought and won 19 professional matches, but it wasn't this alone that made him a heavyweight contender.

Early on, Cassius Clay mastered the fine art of publicity. At the Olympics he began inventing rhymes that predicted how he would do in a match, and he brought this skill home with him. Before long he was something of a media darling, dismissed by some as "The Louisville Lip," but always good for sports copy. He understood the value of that attention, and as he told Sports Illustrated in 1964, "If you wonder what the difference between [other boxers] and me is, I'll break the news: you never heard of them. I'm not saying they're not good boxers.… I'm just saying you never heard of them." Before long, people were clamoring for a Cassius Clay shot at the heavyweight title.

Before long, Sonny Liston bowed to the pressure and agreed to fight Clay in Miami. In the weeks leading up to the match, Clay turned up the volume on the traditional hype, rhyming and hurling insults at Liston. About this time, he began using the chant "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." And on February 25, 1964, backed up his talk by defeating the "unbeatable" Sonny Liston. At 22, Cassius Clay was the World Heavyweight Champion

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Famous Sports StarsBoxingMuhammad Ali Biography - A Stolen Bicycle, The Louisville Lip, A Controversial Champ, In And Out Of The Wilderness - SELECTED WRITINGS BY ALI: