“The Greatest” Dead At 74
Former three time world heavyweight boxing champ and Olympic gold medalist Muhammad Ali died Friday night after being hospitalized for a respiratory infection, he was 74.
Ali dominated boxing in the 60’s & 70s and his fights still remain as some of the most memorable of all time. During Ali’s brilliant career he defeated some of the most marquee names ever to enter the ring. Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton, Leon Spinks and Larry Holmes. All world heavy weight champions at one time and except for Holmes, all of them lost to the man who tabbed himself as the greatest of all time and ultimately it became his destiny.
When Ali arrived on the boxing scene as Cassius Clay (later changing his name to Muhammad Ali), fans didn’t know how to take him, he was a brash young fighter completely full of himself. He was always quick to make bold predictions of how he was going to destroy his opponents, while ridiculing and taunting them all the while leading up to the fight and early in Muhammad Ali’s career he was disliked by many of his peers and boxing fans alike because of it.
Many people didn’t realize it at first but once Ali’s career was in full bloom it became obvious that not only did he establish himself as the greatest boxer to date in the ring, but also the way he went about it with his predictions and trash talking was actually sheer genius. He not only was a Great boxer but a great promoter as well. No one gave him a chance against Sonny Liston, everyone was anxiously waiting for the biggest name in sports at that time to make short work of the loose lipped youngster but after he defeated Liston in 1964 for the heavyweight title, he had the whole boxing worlds attention and would never lose it.
The outcome of the fight between Ali and Liston became very controversial and many suspected that the fight was rigged. Ali fought Liston in 1964 and again in 1965 winning both fights.
Ali would lose and regain the heavyweight title three times through out his career, the first with out ever entering the ring.
In 1967 Ali was stripped of his title and suspended from boxing for 3-1/2 years for his failure to comply with the military draft, refusing to enter the Army.
Ali was 31-0 when he lost his first fight in March of 1971, against then heavyweight champ Joe Frazier. Frazier won a clear 15-round unanimous decision. Ali was attempting to regain his title after it was stripped for not entering the Army. The two would fight again in Oct. 1975 in a fight called the “Thrilla In Manila” Ali had regained the title a year earlier and Ali won the fight with a 14-Rd TKO.
In 1973 Ali fought Ken Norton for the first of three fights between the two, losing a 12-round split decision in a fight where Norton broke Ali’s jaw. Ali claimed his jaw was broken in the first round and Norton claimed he did it in the last. Ali would win the rematch later that year in Sept. 1973.
Ali Vs Norton III occurred in the Summer of 1976, Ali won the fight that also was decided in the 15th and final round, retaining his title.
In Jan. 1974 it was Ali Vs Frazier II, the fight was a non-title fight because Frazier had lost his title earlier to George Foreman. Ali defeated Frazier winning a unanimous 12-round decision, Setting the stage for what would eventually be considered as the biggest fight in the history of boxing at that time, Foreman Vs Ali.
For most of Ali’s career he was as good as it got OR would ever get, Lightning fast hands like no one before him with an uncanny ability to avoid his opponents punches with cat like reflexes made him the legend that he is today.
Ali always made the comment that the reason he had such a pretty face was because no one could ever touch it, he also became famous for the phrase “Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee” and when Ali was in his prime no phrase described him better.
Ali fought Foreman for the heavyweight title in Oct. 1974 the fight was held in Zaire, Africa and was dubbed “Rumble In The Jungle”.
Knowing that Foreman was much bigger and stronger, Ali came up with a new strategy he eventually named “The Rope A Dope”, in which he allowed Foreman to pin him on the ropes numerous times through out the fight, taking many blows to the head and body anticipating that with Foreman’s size and his (Ali’s) IRON jaw and ability to take a punch, he would eventually wear down and in the 8th round Foreman did just that, he started throwing wild punches out of desperation and fatigue allowing Ali to score a KO against an exhausted Foreman, so the Rope A Dope strategy paid off giving Ali back the title for the 1st time since being stripped in 1967 and even though the Rope A Dope proved to be a worth while strategy by helping Ali regain the title, it was perhaps the worst mistake he could ever have made.
In Feb. 1978 Ali lost his title for a 3rd time to 1976 Gold Medalist, Leon Spinks and later that year (Sept. 1978) Ali regained the title for an unprecedented 3rd time in a rematch against Spinks.
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Sadly like many boxers over the years, Ali continued fighting until he was 39, well past his prime and as his skills were diminishing he began to rely on the Rope A Dope more and more and for the last few years of Ali’s career he would suffer many, many more blows to the head.
In 1984 Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and Even though the Rope A Dope strategy had allowed Ali to regain what at that time was his MOST prized possession, the heavyweight championship, in the end it would cause him to lose something a thousand times more precious, his health.
I grew up watching Ali’s entire career and early on My Sports Mind wasn’t too crazy about this guy who bragged and boasted to no end, all the while claiming to be the “GREATEST of ALL TIME” always putting down every opponent he ever faced on a lower level than himself. But over time Ali grew on me earning my respect. He did prove to me that he was indeed the Greatest that ever entered the boxing ring and thru the years as My Sports Mind watched his career wind down It was this legend of legends, Muhammad Ali that made me realize at a young age that no matter how GREAT a person might be, No Matter how much pride is in a mans heart, NO ONE escapes and everyone succumbs to time.
Yesterday America and the world lost one of the biggest sports legends of ALL time. A man who was much bigger than life even in death. Thank you Muhammad Ali for all the great memories, I will never forget you and how great you truly was and what you meant to your sport. Two words describe you best, the same two words you used to describe yourself, “The Greatest”.
May You Rest In Peace.
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