Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., better known as Muhammad Ali, will forever be remembered as one of the greatest athletes in history. But he was so much more than that. At his prime, Ali was just as famous for his civil rights activism as he was for his boxing skills. In fact, Ali often put his political stance ahead of his boxing career.
In 1967, he refused the U.S. Army draft, stating, “I got no quarrel with the Viet Cong.” In response, he was stripped of his boxing license and titles, including his first World Heavyweight Champion win in 1964. For the next three and a half years, Ali could not fight professionally.
In 1970, Ali ultimately received a victory in federal court, and his titles were reinstated. He returned to boxing with a series of impressive wins, which left him as the top contender against acclaimed heavyweight champion Joe Frazier.
Ali and Frazier’s first fight in 1971 was dubbed the “Fight of the Century”—both boxers were undefeated at the time. After fifteen rounds, Frazier was declared the winner, and Ali experienced his first professional defeat. Just three years later, Ali and Frazier went head to head again in a non-title boxing match, and Ali won. Then, in 1975, Ali and Frazier fought a third time. By the fifteenth and final round, Frazier’s trainer would not let him re-enter the ring, and Ali won by TKO.
Although that moment arguably marked the peak of his career, Ali continued to fight well into his thirties.
In 1976, he went to Puerto Rico to train for a match and purchased his now-famous Cartier Tank. Ali’s choice of watch is a stark contrast to his public persona. With his strong, powerful, and often in-your-face attitude, Ali’s understated Tank is surprising. It reflects the deeper nature of the self-made man from Louisville, Kentucky.
Muhammad Ali’s Timepiece Legacy
Ali’s life and career continue to inspire the watch world today. Both Shinola and TAG Heuer have created timepieces in his honor.
Shinola debuted the Muhammad Ali Center watch as the third timepiece in their Great Americans Series, a collection of limited edition watches inspired by American innovators. Shinola developed the watch in collaboration with The Muhammed Ali Center, a multicultural museum and education center in Ali’s hometown. Each timepiece is accompanied by three rarely-seen prints of Ali captured and signed by renowned photographer Thomas Hoepker.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Caliber 5 Ring Master Muhammad Ali was released as a special edition of 750 initial pieces shortly after Ali’s death in 2016. The timepiece is modeled after one of Heuer’s stopwatches from the 1950’s whose interchangeable rings made it perfect for timing the three-minute rounds of a boxing match. It also showcases an engraved portrait of Ali on the caseback and his signature on the dial.
Throughout Ali’s life and career, he embodied many personas: champion boxer, activist, and self-made man from simple beginnings. The TAG Carrera reflects Ali’s passion for the sport he loved. The Shinola serves as a tribute to Ali’s dedication to civil rights. And his own Cartier Tank—sturdy, classic, and reserved—represents Ali’s true, humble nature.
Image Credits: Header; Wikimedia Commons. 1; John Rooney/AP. 3; Shinola. 4; TAG Heuer.