Saturday June 4th, 2016

Perhaps Muhammad Ali never would have become a boxer if things had gone differently on a trip to the theater when he was 12.

One day, while Ali (then Cassius Clay) and a friend were at the Columbia Auditorium in Louisville, Ky., a thief stole Clay’s red and white bicycle. When Clay went to tell a policeman about the theft, he said he wanted to “whup” whoever took the bike.

The cop was Sergeant Joe Martin, who trained boxers in the basement of the theater and invited Clay to learn to fight before he tried to take on the thief.

Thus began six years of Clay’s training under Martin. Martin stayed on as Clay’s coach until after the 1960 Olympics, when Clay turned pro.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.