Why Did Cassius Clay Change His Name to Muhammad Ali?


Regina Kings One night in Miami creates an emotionally intimate portrait of Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), the legendary boxer who denounced the name Cassius Clay shortly after becoming the world’s heavyweight champion. Indeed, in the context of the events of the film, the groundbreaking Ali announced his new identity. The Amazon Prime movie, based on the Kemp Powers play of the same name, takes us to the night of February 25, 1964, when 22-year-old boxer famously defeated Sonny Liston. That evening, the young champion was hanging out with friends Sam Cooke, Malcolm X and Jim Brown. A month later, he announced to the world that he was Muhammad Ali. But why exactly did he change his name? After publicly joining the Nation of Islam, Ali put it in his own words: “Cassius Clay is a slave name.”

During a press conference after his historic night, Ali first announced that his name would be Cassius X. This title was a tribute to his friend and mentor Malcolm X, who watched his fight from the sidelines. Ali later stated that he was officially converting to Islam. A month after defeating Liston, he told the world his name was Muhammad Ali. Regarding the name Cassius Clay, Ali told the world, “I didn’t choose it and I don’t want it. I’m Muhammad Ali, a free name – it means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when you speak.” me.”

Unfortunately, the media called him Cassius Clay until well into the 1960s. And it wasn’t just the press – Ali’s opponents would also refer to him by his previous name. His 1967 fight with Ernie Terrell became known to boxing fans as the “What’s My Name” fight. In the ring, Ali kept asking Terrell, “What’s my name?” Before finally beating him.

According to USA todayAli never officially changed his name as there was no legal name change required in the 1960s. However, every official document issued to him was under his chosen name. Formally or informally, it is perfectly clear that the boxer would go down in history forever as the triumphant Muhammad Ali.