Five All-Time Sporting Greats Who Don't Go By Their Real Names

Gavin Cooney
By Gavin Cooney
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Our daily  podcast, The Racket, is undergoing a name change, and we are asking you for your ideas. If you've got a name for our pod, tweet it with #NewNameForTheRacket. 

On that topic, here are five all time greats who have changed their names.

Sugar Ray Robinson

Robinson held the world welterweight championship between 1946 and 1951 as Sugar Ray Robinson, although he was born Walker Smith Jr. Robinson went as Smith up until the age of 14, when he tried to enter an amateur boxing competition.

Upon the attempt, Smith was told that he had to be 16 to enter, so borrowed an identity card from his 16 year old friend Ray Robinson. From there the name stuck.

The 'Sugar' prefix was added when the sportswriter Jack Case noticed Robinson fighting, and quipped to his coach "that's a sweet fighter you've got there." Gainford replied "Sweet as sugar," causing Case to nickname the fighter "Sugar Ray".

Muhammad Ali

Ali was Cassius Clay until 1964, whereupon he changed his name to Muhammad Ali to fully publicise his conversion to Islam. Ali had been a member of the Nation of Islam for a number of years, and amid many media whisperings, made it fully public with the change in name following his flooring of Sonny Liston in that year.

Babe Ruth


Ruth was born George Herman Ruth Jr. in 1895. Ruth was a troublesome child, and was frequently found drinking, chewing tobacco and often had run-ins with police officers. His parents sent him away to a Catholic orphanage and reformatory, where he stayed for 12 years.


It was at this school that Ruth was introduced to baseball, aged 15. His precocity was obvious, and signed a professional contract at the age of 19 with the Boston Red Sox.

Being at such a young age, Ruth needed a legal guardian with whom to sign the contract. Jack Dunn - the owner of the Baltimore Orioles and the man who spotted Ruth for the Red Sox - became Ruth's legal guardian, which led to teammates calling Ruth 'Jack Dunn's Babe'. The nickname 'Babe' stuck throughout one of the greatest careers in sport.


Tiger Woods

Woods was born Eldrick Woods in 1975, but changed his name to Tiger at the age of 21. Eldrick combined the 'E' of his father's name Earl and the 'K' in his mothers name Kultida.

Tiger was a nickname bestowed on the precocious Woods by his father, and it has remained ever since.


Ryan Giggs

Giggs was born Ryan Wilson, but following his parents' divorce, elected to take his mother's surname, Giggs at the age of 16. Relations remain fraught between Giggs and his father, as was revealed in an explosive interview with Danny Wilson as his son succeeded David Moyes as interim manager of Manchester United in 2014.

Wilson labelled his son "a cheat, unfaithful and a liar" following the news that Giggs had an affair with his sister in law.


See Also: John Giles' Views On Football Boots Are Not What You Usually Hear From A Player From His Era


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