Muhammad Ali is not the greatest fighter who ever lived, but he's by far the most famous and had the largest impact upon the world.
In honor of his 70th birthday Tuesday, here is my choice of the Top 10 moments from Ali's illustrious career. I'm only choosing in-the-ring events, since his out-of-ring life could be worthy of a list, as well.
10. Win over Cleveland Williams on Nov. 14, 1966 – Ali was two months shy of his 25th birthday when he stopped the veteran Williams in the third round in the Astrodome. Williams was a quality fighter with a 65-5-1 record, but this fight may have been Ali at his absolute peak. He was lightning fast, exceptionally accurate and his punches had significant impact.
9. Getting knocked down by Henry Cooper on June 18, 1963 – Cooper floored Ali in the fourth round with a left hook. It was the first time in his young pro career he had faced adversity. Ali got up and then stopped Cooper in the following round, proving his mettle to all who questioned him.
8. Win over Jerry Quarry on Oct. 26, 1970 – Quarry was one of the elite heavyweights of his day and would likely have won a championship had he come around at a time when there weren't guys like Ali and Joe Frazier around. Ali faced Quarry in his first fight back after he refused induction into the military service and put on a spectacular performance that signaled he was, for certain, back in the hunt.
7. Knockout of Sonny Liston in rematch, May 25, 1965 – Ali won by first-round knockout with the phantom punch that many to this day insist still didn't land. Whatever, it marked the end of Liston as a serious contender.
6. Loss to Larry Holmes, Oct. 2, 1980 – Anyone who saw it cringed at the site of an aged Ali unable to move and unable to compete against Holmes, an elite fighter in his prime. Several times, Holmes turned to referee Richard Greene and pleaded with him to stop the fight. When Greene didn't, Holmes turned back to battering Ali in what was the saddest bout of his career.
5. Loses heavyweight title to Leon Spinks, Feb. 15, 1978 – Spinks was a 1976 Olympic gold medalist, but he came into the fight with just a 6-0-1 record. He simply outworked Ali and won the title in one of the most significant upsets in boxing history.
4. Stops Liston to win heavyweight title, Feb. 25, 1964 – Ali was a massive underdog and his behavior the week of the fight caused many to think he'd lost his mind. But Ali thoroughly outboxed Liston and, even when he got liniment in his eye and was unable to see for a round, he moved expertly around the ring and didn't get hit. It was one of the most brilliant performances of his career against a man who, at the time, was every bit as feared as Mike Tyson was in his prime.
3. Stops Frazier after 14 rounds, Oct. 1, 1975 – The Thrilla in Manila was simply one of the greatest fights in boxing history and, arguably, the greatest heavyweight fight ever. Ali may not have made it through the 15th round had Frazier trainer Eddie Futch not stopped it after the 14th.
2. Loss to Frazier, March 8, 1971 – The most famous bout in boxing history pitted two undefeated men in their prime for the heavyweight title. Frazier outworked Ali in a classic bout and punctuated his win by dropping his rival in the 15th round with the most famous left hook ever.
1. Knocks out George Foreman to win heavyweight title, Oct. 30, 1974 – Foreman was 40-0 with 37 knockouts and was establishing himself as the hardest puncher ever. He won the title by stopping Frazier in the second round, then defended it with a first-round knockout of Jose "King" Roman and a second-round stoppage of Ken Norton. Ali came up with the "Rope-a-Dope" strategy to lay on the ropes and let Foreman punch himself out. A major underdog, Ali's plan worked to perfection and he knocked out a tiring Foreman in the eighth to become only the second man ever to regain the belt.
• Eddie Chambers had to pull out of his fight Saturday with Sergei Liakhovich on Saturday, a big blow to the first card on the new NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus).
• The WBA ordered a rematch of the Lamont Peterson-Amir Khan fight, which Peterson won on Dec. 10. It's a shock, just a shock, that the WBA would come down on the side of Khan, the higher-profile fighter who is connected with the richer, more powerful promoter, Golden Boy Promotions. Stunning, I say.
• Truth be known, though, I hope Khan and Peterson fight again because their first fight was outstanding. Anyone who follows boxing knows that the sanctioning bodies are hardly worthy of paying attention to, but if this ruling actually leads to a rematch, great, because it would lead to another potentially very good match.
• A rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
• The super bantamweight title bout Friday in Las Vegas between Rico Ramos and Guillermo Rigondeaux could be very good, as each man has fast hands and good power, or very bad, as each has shown a tendency to be extraordinarily cautious. The fight is on Showtime.
I have never known one single person who admired Muhammad Ali or thought he was anything but a jerk and a loudmouth. He was a great boxer, but it ends there. I have lived in five states, and am 52 years old and have never met one person who likes the guy.
There are a lot of people who feel the way you do, Forrest. But there are millions upon millions who feel otherwise.
I really appreciated your article on Ali. There was a time, after Ali evaded the draft and made a statement against the war in Vietnam, that I had a sincere distaste for the man. Time has proven that he was correct in his belief. As a young man, I watched him take out Sonny Liston with a punch that is to this day still astounding to me. Over the years, I have observed his life and have come to appreciate the fact that he is a true hero and inspiration to many around the world. I don't have any way to wish him a happy birthday and to thank him for all that he has done. If you have the opportunity would you mind passing this on to him?
His stance on the war was exceptionally controversial. But what I think is significant to note is that he did not flee to Canada, as many did at that time, nor did he attempt to fight outside of the country. He gave up three-and-a-half of the prime years of his career to stand up for a cause he believed in. Not everyone believed in that cause, though the war clearly became unpopular, but few had the courage to do what he did.
Here is the Ali story liberals can't seem to fall in love with: First, winning the heavyweight championship fixed by the mafia running Sonny Liston. Then, winning in a rematch on a phantom punch. He then becomes a draft dodger, deserting his country because he is a coward. He is then a manufactured "hero" created by a hippie, liberal media. Distraught because he is a black man who cannot manage his own money, a class act, Joe Frazier, loans him money and argues in front of Congress that this Muslim should be allowed to box. Once Congress allows the Muslim to fight, he then backstabs Frazier by calling him "Uncle Tom." This is the peace loving part of being Muslim, I suppose. He gets his butt kicked by Frazier, then Ken Norton. In actuality, he lost three fights to Norton. Nevertheless, the media is relentless in creating this garbage as the greatest of all-time. He is not even close, but is loved by liberal blacks and media regardless of the fixed fights, draft dodging and wrecking a good man name with his backstabbing. Yeah, Ali is a great guy. Die, already.
Mountain View, Calif.
Sadly, Patrick, your words speak volumes about where we are in this country. Wow.
"I got respect for Oscar De La Hoya. I'm happy with what Oscar De La Hoya did for boxing and I'm happy because he's part of the promotional team, Golden Boy, but how is it that he owns The Ring magazine and he's able to put guys that haven't done anything ahead of me and I'm a world champion? I look up in The Ring magazine and I'm ranked number eight. Well, the guys rated higher than me is because why? They with Golden Boy. It's just crooked. If you got money, you can do what you want to do and it shouldn't just be like that. Fair is fair; right is right. Can't we all just get along? Tell [President Barack] Obama, 'Can't we all just get along?' " – IBF junior middleweight champion Cornelius "K9" Bundrage, to MaxBoxing.com's Steve Kim.
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