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Four Key Fights in Muhammad Ali’s Career
Tommy McElroy, MD
Muhammad Ali died on June 3, 2016 in Phoenix, AZ. Born on January 27, 1942 in Louisville, KY as Cassius Marcellus, Jr., he was at one time the most famous athlete in the world, and arguably the most famous person in the world. His legacy transcends sports, as he became as well known outside the ring as in it. Among his accomplishments were being the first 3 time heavyweight champion of the world, the first heavyweight champion to regain the title, and the conqueror of not 1 but 2 ‘invincible’ champions in the form of Sonny Liston and George Foreman.

He drew both admirers and detractors for his refusal to be drafted and was stripped of his title in 1967 and exiled from boxing for 3 years. When he came back in 1970, he had lost some of the quickness that made him unbeatable, but retained the guts and determination that many didn’t know he had. Throughout the 70s he went on to unprecedented success that backed up his claim to be ‘The Greatest of All Time.”

Ali regained the title for a 2 nd time in 1978 by beating Leon Spinks who had won the title from him in a huge upset 7 months prior. Finally with no other mountains to climb or monsters to dethrone, he retired. But he could not stay away for long and he again made a comeback. By the time he unsuccessfully challenged Larry Holmes for the heavyweight championship in 1980, he was a shell of his former self. The quickness of hands and feet were gone, and it soon became evident that the quickness of tongue that had given him the nickname the ‘Louisville Lip” was also impaired. As time went on, Muhammad Ali who was the most successfully self-marketed athlete in history became slowed and quieted by Parkinson’s Syndrome. But even in silence, his mere presence was able to command audience attention and respect around the world.

Key fights in Ali’s career.

Sonny Liston February 25, 1964, in Miami

At the end of round four, as Clay returned to his corner, he began experiencing blinding pain in his eyes and asked his trainer Angelo Dundee to cut off his gloves

Liston quit on his stool, refusing to come out for the seventh round.

“I shook up the world.”

Joe Frazier March 8, 1971, Madison Square Garden

‘The Fight of the Century”

Down in the 15 th Round

First defeat showed that while Ali was no longer unbeatable, he was in fact one of the toughest individuals to ever put on gloves.

George Foreman October 30, 1974, Kinshasa, Zaire

“The Rumble in the Jungle”

Once again the underdog

Ten years after defeating the invincible Sonny Liston, Ali defeated another invincible champion in George Foreman. Foreman was considerably more ferocious than anyone Ali had faced up until then. Coupled with the fact that at 32 years old Ali was an ‘over-the-hill’ fighter.

Employing the Rope a dope, he beat, bewildered, and finally knocked out the younger, stronger Foreman in the eight round in one of the greatest upsets of all time.

Larry Holmes October 2, 1980

“The Last Hurrah”

Ill-advised return to ring.

Showing signs of early Parkinson’s with slurring speech and trembling hands.

Facing his former sparring partner Ali is battered for 10 one-sided rounds before the fight is stopped by longtime trainer Angelo Dundee. The only time Ali failed to finish a fight.

Muhammad Ali 56-5 (37)

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