Visualizing Greatness: Muhammad Ali’s Pro Boxing Career

As you surely know by now, boxer, social activist and global icon Muhammad Ali died over the weekend at age 74.

While there was so much more to Ali’s life than just his boxing career, it’s stunning to look at what he accomplished (and what more he could have accomplished) in the ring.

Using Microsoft® Excel and OnePager® plan communication software, we’ve created a visual representation of Ali’s 20-plus year boxing career. Flags represent the location of his fights (the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman, for instance, was contested in Kinshasa, Zaire).

The top swimlane includes Ali’s time under his given name, Cassius Clay, while the bottom swimlane includes his fights after changing his name to Muhammad Ali. Green names are Ali wins; red names are losses.

Muhammad Ali boxing career timeline

Click here for a larger version.

What can we make out by viewing this data visually? A few things.

  • Like his legacy, so much of Ali’s career can be defined by his 1967-70 absence over his refusal to fight in Vietnam. That span probably represents nine fights; in a universe where he takes them, he might not have suffered the brutal beatings that typified the last few fights of his career.
  • Ali was truly a global icon. He fought (and drew huge crowds) in Zaire, the Philippines, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland the more.
  • For all the talk about series of fights between Ali and Joe Frazier and Ali and Sonny Liston, it’s easy to forget about the late-career trilogy between Ali and Ken Norton. Ali won the second and third fights between the two, but the third (in 1976) is still contested.

What else do you see? Do you remember watching Ali fight, or have you heard stories from your father or grandfather? Tell us in the comments, and treat yourself to one of the most iconic moments in sports history.

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About Jim

Jim earned his PhD in applied physics at Harvard University in 1977 and has filled both R&D and executive roles at software-development companies since 1981. His employment history includes Texas Instruments, IBM, Landmark Graphics, and GuideWorks/Comcast. His roles have included Senior Member of Technical Staff at TI, Program Manager at IBM, Vice President of R&D at Landmark, Vice President of Marketing at Landmark, and Senior Vice President of Engineering and Development at GuideWorks/Comcast. He co-founded OnePager (originally Chronicle Graphics) in 2005 because he needed the tool himself and hasn't missed the corporate ladder ever since!

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