Muhammad Ali was a pioneer of ass-kicking who thought that just flat-out punching people in the face for a living was not enough for him, and decided to be a dick about it for most of his life.
Clay's fighting spirit came from a rather innocuous origin: Someone stole his bike.
Like this, but in Kentucky. And Clay wasn't wearing a pink jumpsuit.
Clay was so furious about the theft of his prized Schwinn, that after being directed to Joe Martin, a police officer who was manning the local boxing gym, he demanded a statewide hunt for the perpetrator, and made outlandish threats against the thief. When Martin asked if Clay knew how to fight, Clay responded, "No, but I'd fight anyway."(Source.) So Martin began training young Clay in the sweet science, and then soon found that Clay really needed no training at all in the ancient art of punching people in the face.
Yeah, like that.
But the REAL reason that Ali attained staying power with the people was his sense of showmanship. Not only did he call which round he was going to knock people out, but he had surprising accuracy. He literally danced circles around whomever he fought. When Hollywood was getting ready to make the film Ali in 2001, Ali requested Will Smith to play him, but his first words on the matter were that Smith "wasn't pretty enough to play me."
Oh you did NOT just insult the Fresh Prince.
In 2005, Ali was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award a civilian can get. He was in the company of Alan Greenspan, Andy Griffith, Jack Nichlaus and Aretha Franklin. After giving Ali the medal, former president Dubya playfully put up his hands in a fighter's stance to Ali. Ali looked as if Bush had kicked his dog and impregnated his daughter, and looped his finger around his head a few times, giving the international symbol for "This fucker's crazy." In Bush's defense, however...
Ali's daughter is pretty hot.