The Digital Journalist

Muhammad Ali

I met Odessa Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1963 while she was making lunch for her son Cassius. Her energetic, well-mannered 21-year-old was in the living room of his parents' home, struggling over a game of Monopoly with some neighborhood children. Having already won the Olympic Gold Boxing Medal and amassed a professional record of 15 knockouts and 18 wins, at this moment his biggest concern was winning at the Parker Brothers board game. But winning wasn't enough. He needed to break the bank. When playing Monopoly you had to lose all your money and property to him. He would loan you money to keep you in the game long enough to win absolutely everything on the board. Nothing would ever go back to the bank.

As Cassius walked around the neighborhood, his Monopoly game under his arm, the kids would flock to him. They genuinely loved him. The kids sparred with him; they all rode their bikes together with him, told stories, visited the corner store and, of course, played a lot of Monopoly.

Even at 21 he talked about socialized grocery stores, run by the people instead of big store chains, and other methods to give everyone more voice in the economics of their own lives.

Supposedly, he learned to be so boastful from watching the wrestling star "Gorgeous George" Wagner on television. Gorgeous George taunted his opponents so much that huge crowds in the thousands came to every arena match with the hopes that he would lose and someone would shut him up.

Soon thereafter Cassius Clay would change his name to Muhammad Ali and become known throughout the world for both the jabs of his fists as well as his tongue.