When Muhammad Ali died on June 3, 2016, the world lost arguably its most iconic figure. Ali broke the mold. He was brash, talked trash and self promoted, in an era when athletes toed the line. Ali questioned the conventions that athletes should be subservient and know their place.
He used his platform as a sports superstar to speak out against racial discrimination and the Vietnam war. He was a global humanitarian. There will never be another. Ali changed sports, and changed the world as he found it. He will always be “The Greatest”.
Muhammad Ali can’t be defined by a single fight, or moment, but here are five of the most memorable:
Clay v. Liston II – May 25, 1965. After shocking the bruising and dominate Liston to win the Heavyweight Championship for the first time, Cassius Clay knocked out Liston in the rematch with a quick right hand. The “Phantom Punch” knockout produced one of the greatest sports photographs of the 20th century by Neil Leifer.
Ali v. Williams – Nov. 14, 1966. Ali brutalized the over matched Cleveland Williams in a fight that was remembered for Ali’s complete command and domination. Williams was a legitimate opponent, but the fight was a showcase for Ali’s blinding punching speed and quickness. It was also the first appearance of Ali’s famous quick foot shuffle that became a trademark. A master class in the sweet science.
Ali v. Frazier I – March 8, 1971. “The Fight of the Century”. Both fighters entered the fight undefeated. Frazier held the heavyweight title belt. Ali was seeking to reclaim the belt after it was stripped by boxing authorities for his refusal to enlist to for service in Vietnam. Although, Ali lost the slugfest to Frazier in a 15 round unanimous decision, the fight is regarded as one of the best ever. It laid the foundation for Ali and Frazier’s classic rivalry.
Ali v. Foreman – October 30, 1974. “The Rumble in the Jungle”. Ali took on George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire. Foreman, the reigning champ, had the clear physical advantage over the older Ali. Ali employed the rope-a-dope tactic and absorbed waves of devastating body blows as the overly aggressive Foreman punched himself out. Ali knocked out the exhausted Foreman in the 8th round in to regain the heavyweight title for the second time.
Ali v. Frazier III – January 28, 1974. “The Thrilla and Manila”. After Ali bested Frazier by TKO in the rematch, the two squared off in Manila, Philippines in the final classic installment of the rivalry. The fight was called after the 14th round because Frazier was barely able to see due to excessive swelling in his eye. many boxing historians regard the tilt as best fight ever.