Muhammad Ali was perhaps the greatest boxer of all time and regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century. Ali’s speed, agility, footwork and general athleticism were among the attributes that most distinguished him from other competitors. It was said he was a heavyweight who moved like a lightweight.
As a professional, Ali won the world heavyweight championship on three separate occasions over 14 years. He was victorious in 56 of 61 professional bouts, with three of the losses coming late in his career when his athleticism had faded. Ali was an innovative strategist, introducing new techniques to the art of fighting.
Muhammad Ali left behind a legacy of thrilling fights, trash talk poetry and taking a stand against inequality and war. Let’s look at some of his greatest matches of all time:
The Rise of the Star: Ali beats Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964
This was the most anticipated fight with the scariest fighters in the world. The fight was considered as one of the biggest fights of Ali’s career. The first fight of Ali’s career was against Liston, who became the heavyweight champion after knocking out Floyd Patterson. Liston was a big favourite over Ali but the 22-year-old conquered the match and screamed those immortal words: “I am the greatest … I shook up the world.”
Those unforgettable words! What’s my name? Ali beats Ernie Terrell on February 6, 1967
Muhammad Ali and Ernie Terrell fought each other in a 15-round boxing match at the Astrodome in Houston on February 6, 1967. After taking the title from Liston, Ali adopted Islam (earlier he was known as Cassius Clay) and Terrell was incessantly provoking him by calling Ali by his Christian name. Ali taunted Terrell during the bout and beat him savagely but refused to move in for the knockout. He kept asking Terrell “what’s my name?”The fight went the full distance with Ali winning through a unanimous decision.
The Fight of the Century: Ali loses to Joe Frazier on March 8, 1971
When Joe Frazier met Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971, the storyline went much deeper than two undefeated heavyweights clashing for the belt.
The ‘’Fight of the Century’’ is the title boxing writers and historians have given to the boxing match between WBC/WBA heavyweight champion Joe Frazier (26–0, 23 KOs) and Ring magazine/lineal heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali (31–0, 25 KOs), which took place on March 8, 1971, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. After 15 rounds of thrilling toe-to-toe action, Frazier won a unanimous decision. It was the first time that two undefeated boxers fought each other for the heavyweight title.
The Rumble in the Jungle: Ali beats George Foreman on October 30, 1974
The Rumble in the Jungle was a historic boxing event in Kinshasa, Zaire on October 30, 1974. It has been called “arguably the greatest sporting event of the 20th century”.
Foreman had astonished the sports world with his terrifying demolition of Joe Frazier, knocking Smokin’ Joe to the canvas six times in less than two rounds and instantly putting the fear of God into all other heavyweight contenders.
The fight pitted then World Heavyweight Champion George Foreman against former champion and #1 contender Muhammad Ali, who became the second fighter ever, after Floyd Patterson, to regain the World Heavyweight Championship.
Thrilla in Manila: Ali beats Joe Frazier on October 1, 1975
The Thrilla in Manila was the third and final boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. It was contested in 1975 for the heavyweight championship of the world at the Philippine Coliseum in Cubao. After Frazier beat Ali in 1971, Ali claimed a unanimous-decision victory over Frazier in January of 1974, setting up the mother of all deciders in the Philippines.
After 14 rounds of brutality, Frazier’s trainer Eddie Futch stopped the fight after seeing his man bruised and effectively blind. Futch stopped a protesting Frazier from coming out for the 15th round and the title remained in the hands of Ali, who collapsed with exhaustion straight after the win was made official.
There were calls for Ali to retire after the bout. Instead, he battled on for 10 more fights over the next six years but was never the same as a fighter or a man after the Thrilla in Manila.