Happy Birthday, Champ: Ranking of Muhammad Ali’s Most Memorable Fights

Monday is Muhammad Ali’s birthday.

He was 80 years old.

And if you don’t miss him, well… maybe this isn’t the site for you.

Anyway, to mark the big milestone, I think compiling his list of the 10 best matches would be a worthy tribute. And it will also be an interesting quest for a windy and rainy Florida morning.

In doing so, I consider not only the singular quality of his performances but also the importance of events both on the individual and the overall context of his résumé.

Consider the options and rationale, and feel free to include your own ideas in the form of comments.

Calm down, champion.

10. Chuck Wepner (TKO 15, March 24, 1975)

Ali and Chuck Wepner’s 1975 meeting was not a creative masterpiece.

Ali was 33 years old in the past, and Wepner’s best offensive strategy consisted of roughing and fouling the defending champion.

However, great things have come out of Ali’s forgettable 15th round TKO win.

Inspired by a performance by the underdog – who scored a knockdown in the ninth round – aspiring actor/screenwriter Sylvester Stallone produced a script for what eventually became Rocky. , which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1977.

9. Joe Frazier (UD 12, January 28, 1974)

Although the heavyweight landscape has changed dramatically since their first meeting in “War of the Century,” three years later it’s still Ali and Joe Frazier on the Madison Square Garden stage.

And that alone guarantees inclusion on any list.

The second leg was marked by continued tension between the two in the run up, and another bull-matador dynamic in the round, although Ali was able to kick Frazier very badly in Round 2 – leaving a Some people believe that Smokin’ Joe has been saved. when referee Tony Perez mistakenly rang a bell.

Ali ultimately won a unanimous decision, making 21 of 36 rounds on three scorecards.

8. Earnie Shavers (UD 15, September 29, 1977)

Because he is so memorable with his words off the field, people sometimes lose sight of the fact that Ali has always shown his heart and intelligence within.

Rarely were those qualities more evident than in 1977 before Earnie Shavers.

The shaved-head Ohioan is a killer puncher and has rocked Ali many times, especially in Round 2. But the 35-year-old champion stood his ground, digging deep into his cistern and ultimately creating a memorable rally in round 15, beat the challenger defeated fate scorecard.

Ali’s narrow unanimous decision was the penultimate victory of his career.

7. Ernie Terrell (UD 15, February 6, 1967)

For those who remember Ali as an intelligent, tough but generally born fighter, his 1967 match with Ernie Terrell can be a jarring revelation.

Now just the 25-year-old champion at the peak of his physical game, his lousy streak was clearly seen as he chastised Terrell for repeatedly calling him “Clay” ” instead of “Ali”.

“What’s my name?” Taunts could be heard as he beat his foes, but he repeatedly dropped the throttle just in time to prevent referee Harry Kessler from interfering.

The torture lasted a full 15 rounds – Ali took 13 on all three points cards – and it became his second-to-last win before being forced into a three-year exile in the ring.

6. Cleveland Williams (TKO 3, November 14, 1966)

If you were to judge the ability alone, this could be Ali’s climactic fight.

It was the seventh defense of a reign less than three years old, and challenger Cleveland Williams was at the very end of the performance as he watched Ali land at will and repeatedly knock down enemies. with dazzling combinations.

Williams had 51 KOs on his résumé but barely hit a punch.

Three knockdowns in the second round before the third, in which Williams was quickly knocked out for the fourth and final time, ended in just seven minutes and eight seconds.

It is clinical. It’s so violent. It’s so beautiful.

5. Leon Spinks (UD 15, September 15, 1978)

Ali lost twice in 57 matches before stumbling to seven-match training new Leon Spinks less than two years after he won gold at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

But while the loss added an unpredictable stain to his résumé, it also set the stage for what should have been a welcome breakup seven months later.

A 36-year-old Ali made 10, 10 and 11 of 15 laps on three scorecards and became the first man to win the heavyweight title three times.

Not his best work, but if this is goodbye, no one will be able to complain.

Unfortunately, he had to come back two more times, but this was the last of his 56 career victories.

4. Joe Frazier (L UD 15, March 8, 1971)

Infrequent losses make up this list of the 10 best.

But not the case of Ali-Frazier I often lost.

Taking into account that he had fought less than 18 full innings over the three years before that, it was amazing that Ali lasted the full 15 with the original and ferocious version of Smokin’ Joe.

And even when Frazier took him down with a hugely malicious left hand in the final round, Ali got up and took his potion in a unanimous decision defeat that was the first in his career. his career.

Other matches have surpassed it in terms of revenue and viewership, but this one is still the pinnacle of the heavyweight division.

And even though he lost, Ali rarely surpassed what he hit that night.

3. Sonny Liston (TKO 7, February 25, 1964)

Legend has to start somewhere, right?

In this case, it was when a sly, unproven 22-year-old entered the ring against a veteran slugger who won and defended the heavyweight title with one round of consecutive KOs. of the predecessor.

So it’s a little surprising that Sonny Liston is such a popular person.

But after 18 minutes of play, the sport will never be the same.

Ali, in his final battle as Cassius Clay, confused the slower Liston with his unpredictable fast arms and legs and eventually caused him to surrender – believed to be due to shoulder fatigue. – before Round 7.

2. Joe Frazier (TKO 14, October 1, 1975)

Neither Ali nor Frazier were in 1975 as they were four years earlier.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t come together to create a classic – and as it turns out, the final installment of the trilogy becomes the barometer for all who have watched.

The Thrilla in Manila was a back-and-forth battle to go early before Ali retreated at a later stage and eventually forced Frazier’s second captain, Eddie Futch, to surrender before Round 15.

But even in a win, he considers it the closest thing to death he’s ever experienced.

1. George Foreman (KO 8, October 30, 1974)

For a guy who has made a career unwinnable, no victory surpasses Rumble in the Jungle.

A decade after ousting Liston, the 32-year-old version of Ali was hit with the next big thing – 25-year-old George Foreman, who won 37-0 with 34 kills and twice saved both Frazier and Ken Norton , the only two men who defeated the challenger.

But instead of disaster, Ali delivers drama.

He showed his excellence in an unlikely passive form, then gradually took the initiative to attack as his wide swing challenger was dropped to perform on smoke. .

And as Round 8 nears its end, Foreman stumbles across the canvas and provides an image that will last long after anyone who saw it in real time disappears.

* * * * * * * * * * *

This week’s title fight schedule:

WBC Featherweight Title – Atlantic City, New Jersey

Gary Russell Jr. (Winner / No. 1 IWBR) vs Mark Magsayo (No. 2 WBC / No. 10 IWBR)

Russell (31-1, 18 KOs): Defending sixth title; Haven’t fought twice in a year since 2014

Magsayo (23-0, 16 KOs): First title fight; USA Friday (5-0, 3 KOs)

Fitzbitz said: “At some point, having Russell fight infrequently poses a problem. Perhaps this is the point. But he’s also very good. And that’s enough here. Russell by decision (90/10)

Last week’s pick: 1-0 (WIN: Smith)

2022 picks record: 1-0 (100 percent)

Overall pick record: 1,210-392 (75.5%)

NOTE: The matches previewed are only those involving the official title holder of the sanctioning body – no provisional championships, diamonds, silver, etc. Matches for “world championships” ” WBA is only included if there are no “super-champions” in the weight class.

Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and has written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.

https://www.boxingscene.com/happy-birthday-champ-ranking-muhammad-ali-most-memorable-fights–163513 Happy Birthday, Champ: Ranking of Muhammad Ali’s Most Memorable Fights

Dustin Huang

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