A fight-by-fight look at Muhammad Ali’s career milestones

first_imgMuhammad Ali’s prolific 61-fight career featured bouts that are considered the greatest in history: a trilogy with Joe Frazier that produced “The Fight of the Century” and the “Thrilla in Manila,” and the “The Rumble in the Jungle” with George Foreman, among many others. (Muhammad Ali, who riveted the world as ‘The Greatest,’ dies)Ali’s bouts defined the golden era of heavyweight boxing. Here’s a look at just a few of them:___Ali vs. ListonAli dropped Sonny Liston in the first round. (AP Photo)DATE: May 25, 1965WHERE: Central Maine Youth Center, Lewiston, MaineSTAKES: WBC Heavyweight ChampionshipTHE HYPE: Both fighters were involved in controversies following Clay’s upset in the first match. Clay joined the Black Muslims and changed his name to Muhammad Ali in a move that evoked widespread condemnation. Liston was arrested and charged with speeding, careless and reckless driving, driving without an operator’s license and carrying a concealed weapon. He had a loaded .22 caliber revolver in his pocket, empty bottles of vodka and a young woman in the car. (Muhammad Ali dies: Manny Pacquiao, Mike Tyson lead tributes)Congress began investigating corruption and organized crime influence in boxing, and neither fighter was viewed as a role model. Some were bothered that the original fight had a contractual clause for a rematch and some argued Liston had more to gain financially from losing the first bout and fighting a rematch than he did from winning.THE BUILDUP: The fight was originally scheduled for Nov. 16, 1964, at the Boston Garden, but three days earlier, Ali needed emergency surgery for a strangulated hernia. It delayed the bout six months, Liston was arrested again and Massachusetts officials began to have second thoughts about allowing the fight. A dispute over licenses with the promoter led the fight to be quickly moved to Lewiston, Maine, a mill town with a population of about 41,000 located 140 miles north of Boston.advertisementTHE FIGHT: The effects of a right hand landed to the side of the head while Ali backed away in the first round of the rematch will always be argued among boxing fans. Some observers contend Liston went down from a perfect punch; others call it a phantom punch. (Also Read: Muhammad Ali: The boxing legend’s greatest quotes)Chaos reigned in the St. Dominic’s Youth Center. Referee Jersey Joe Walcott, a former heavyweight champion, counted Liston out. But when Liston got up, Walcott got confused and was going to let the fight continue. Nat Fleischer, the founder of The Ring magazine, called to Walcott and as the referee walked toward Fleischer, Ali and Liston began fighting again. Told Liston has been counted out, Walcott stopped the fight, which ranks as one of the shortest heavyweight title bouts in history.”I did my job,” Walcott said. “He (Ali) looked like a man in a different world. I didn’t know what he might do. I thought he might stomp him or pick him up and belt him again.”___Ali vs. Joe FrazierJoe Frazier knocked out Muhammad Ali in the 15th round in 1971. (AP Photo)DATE: March 8, 1971WHERE: Madison Square Garden, New YorkSTAKES: Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship; WBC/WBA Heavyweight ChampionshipTHE HYPE: Simply known as “The Fight,” it pitted a pair of undefeated champions. Ali had been stripped of his belts for refusing to enter the armed forces in 1967, so Frazier was the reigning and recognized champion. Each fighter was guaranteed $2.5 million.THE BUILDUP: On the evening of the match, Madison Square Garden had a circus-like atmosphere, with scores of policemen to control the crowd, outrageously dressed fans and countless celebrities. Millions watched on closed-circuit broadcast screens around the world, and the Garden was packed with a sellout crowd of 20,455 for arguably the most famous boxing match in history. The fight also carried racial undertones with most black fans supporting Ali, much to Frazier’s dismay.THE FIGHT: The fight lived up to the hype as Ali fought for the third time since he ended an enforced layoff of three years, seven months because of his refusal to be drafted into the Army.He used every trick at his command to buy time and impress the judges, but Frazier was relentless. He got Ali into desperate trouble in the 11th round, but Ali refused to go down. He finally did from a long left hook to the jaw 25 seconds into the 15th round. Despite getting up quickly, his right cheek ballooned to grapefruit size as Ali finished the fight. Frazier was the unanimous victor.Referee Arthur Mercante relayed the following conversation that took place in the ring:advertisement”You know, you’re in here with the God tonight” Ali told Frazier.”If you are God,” Frazier replied, “you’re in the wrong place tonight.”___Ali vs. George ForemanDATE: October 30, 1974WHERE: 20th of May Stadium, Kinshasa, ZaireSTAKES: Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship; WBC/WBA Heavyweight ChampionshipTHE HYPE: “The Rumble in the Jungle” was another moment in which Ali was given little chance of joining Floyd Patterson as the only two-time undisputed heavyweight champions. Foreman had looked awesome in winning the title from Joe Frazier and in defending it against Joe “King” Roman and Ken Norton with none of the fights lasting two full rounds.THE BUILDUP: Foreman and Ali spent much of the middle of 1974 training in Zaire, getting acclimated to its tropical climate. The fight was originally set to happen Sept. 25, but Foreman was cut near his right eye during training. The date was pushed back to Oct. 30. A three-night-long music festival to hype the fight, Zaire 74, took place as scheduled from Sept. 22-24 and included performances by James Brown, B.B. King and The Spinners.THE FIGHT: The fight was scheduled for 4 a.m. local time in order to appear on live closed-circuit television in the eastern United States at 10 p.m.Ali had trouble keeping the powerful Foreman at bay in the first two rounds. He decided to go to the ropes and let the champion tire himself out by punching at Ali’s defensive shell – what he would later call the “rope-a-dope.” Occasionally, Ali flurried off the ropes, and did so late in the fifth round when he landed eight solid punches to Foreman’s head to take command of the fight.Ali knocked out an exhausted Foreman in the eighth round.Foreman later said: “He is the greatest man I’ve ever known. Not greatest boxer, that’s too small for him. He had a gift. He’s not pretty, he’s beautiful. Everything America should be, Muhammad Ali is.”___Ali vs. FrazierAli took his revenge in the ‘Thrilla in Manilla’ rematch against Frazier in 1975. (AP Photo)DATE: October 1, 1975WHERE: Araneta Coliseum, Quezon City, PhilippinesSTAKES: WBC/WBA Heavyweight Championship; Undisputed World Heavyweight ChampionshipTHE HYPE: Ali had defeated Frazier in a largely forgettable rematch in 1974, so “The Thrilla in Manila” became the rubber match. The bout is ranked as one of the best in boxing history and Ali chronicled the battle in his memoir, “The Greatest: My Own Story.”THE BUILDUP: Ali verbally abused Frazier in the build-up, and nicknamed him “The Gorilla” – which he used to rhyme, “It will be a killa and a thrilla and a chilla when I get the Gorilla in Manila.” Ali chanted that mantra while punching an action-figure-sized gorilla doll. Ali’s preparations were upset before the fight when he introduced his mistress as his wife to Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, and his wife, Belinda Ali, saw the introduction on television. She flew to Manila and engaged Ali in a prolonged shouting match in his hotel.advertisementFrazier’s side decided the hordes of people and tension in the steaming city were a poor training environment, and Frazier relocated to a quiet setting in the mountainous outskirts of the city. Frazier led a Spartan existence, often sitting for hours in a contemplative state in preparation for the bout.THE FIGHT: The fight lived up to its billing, Ali and Frazier once again bringing out the best in each other. At one point, Ali told Frazier, “They told me Joe Frazier was through.””They lied,” said Frazier, who then hit Ali with a crunching left hook.Ali retained the title when Frazier, who could not see, was kept by trainer Eddie Futch from answering the bell for the 15th round. Ali was well ahead on the scorecards at the time.When it was over, a physically and emotionally drained Ali said, “It was the closest thing to death.”___Ali vs. Larry HolmesDATE: October 2, 1980LOCATION: Caesar’s Palace, Las VegasSTAKES: WBC Heavyweight ChampionshipTHE HYPE: Ali had retired in June 1979 but within months began plotting his comeback. He was supposed to fight new WBA champ John Tate in June 1980, but he lost to Mike Weaver in March. So in April, Ali agreed to fight Holmes, the fearsome young champion. Promoters wanted the fight to take place at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, but local officials were concerned that it would damage the soccer field.THE BUILDUP: The fight was actually called off after the fiasco in Rio, and Holmes knocked out Scott LeDoux in July. But the two sides got together again and hammered out an agreement to fight in Las Vegas, where Caesar’s Palace would build a temporary 24,790-seat outdoor arena.There were concerns over Ali’s health prior to the fight, and he was required to undergo a neurological exam at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Doctors noticed him having trouble touching his finger to his nose and with some muscle coordination, but ultimately determined that he was fit to fight.THE FIGHT: Ali had begun taking a drug called Thyrolar for a thyroid imbalance, and he would blame it for feeling slow and weak during the fight. Outside observers said he simply looked old. In any case, Ali was toyed with the same way he used to toy with others. Holmes delivered a savage beating, and Dundee finally refused to let Ali answer the bell for the 11th round.Ali fought once more, losing a 10-round decision to Trevor Berbick Dec. 11, 1981, at Nassau, Bahamas.last_img

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