Significant fights in the career of Muhammad Ali:
Ali vs. Liston
Feb. 25, 1964
Ali, still known as Cassius Clay, carried on so at the weigh-in for his heavyweight title challenge to Sonny Liston that some observers attributed his actions to fear and suggested the fight at Miami Beach, Fla., should be canceled.
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Ali speared the lumbering Liston with left jabs and right hands that turned the champion’s face lumpy, and in the fifth round he demonstrated the art of survival. In the fourth round Ali got something in his eyes, probably liniment from Liston’s shoulder, which the champion later claimed was injured.
“Cut my gloves off, I want to prove to the world there’s dirty work afoot,” trainer Angelo Dundee said Ali told him. Dundee didn’t, and Ali stayed out of harm’s way in the fifth and became champion when Liston quit on his stool after the sixth.
Ali vs. Liston
May 25, 1965
Some observers said it was a perfect punch. Others called it no punch at all. Ali, while backing away, knocked down Liston with a right to the side of the head in the first round as the fight at Lewiston, Maine, ended in chaos.
Referee Jersey Joe Walcott became confused and was going to let the fight continue. Nat Fleischer, founder of The Ring magazine, shouted to Walcott and he left the fighters, who began fighting again. Walcott, told that Liston had been counted out, returned and stopped the fight.
Ali vs. Williams
Nov. 14, 1966
Ali was perfection in stopping power-punching Cleveland Williams in the third round at Houston.
The first knockdown came early in the third when a back-pedaling Ali caught Williams with two left jabs and a right to the jaw. A 12-punch barrage put Williams down for the second time, and the fight was stopped after Ali knocked Williams down with a double left hook and a right to the jaw.
Ali vs. Frazier
March 8, 1971
The fight at Madison Square Garden was Ali’s third since he ended an enforced layoff of three years, seven months, because of his refusal to be drafted into military service, and it ended in his first defeat.
Ali used every trick he knew to buy time and impress the judges against the relentless Frazier. Ali was in desperate trouble late in the 11th round, but refused to go down. He did go down 25 seconds into the final round from a long left hook to the jaw. He got up quickly, his right cheek ballooned to grapefruit size, and managed to finish the fight.
It was the first megabucks match, with each fighter guaranteed $ 2.5 million.
Ali vs. Norton
Sept. 10, 1973
“In the corner they told me I needed the 12th round,” Ali said. They weren’t kidding. After 11 rounds of his rematch with Ken Norton at Inglewood, Calif., one judge had Norton ahead by two points, the referee and other judge had the fight even.
A second straight loss to Norton, who had broken Ali’s jaw and won a 12-round split decision March 31, 1973, and there would be no Rumble in the Jungle against George Foreman or Thrilla in Manila against Joe Frazier.
Ali dominated the first minute of the round, held his own the rest of the way and won a split decision.
Ali vs. Foreman
Oct. 30, 1974
Ali was given little chance to join Floyd Patterson as the only two-time heavyweight champions by beating George Foreman in the early morning hours at Kinshasa, Zaire. Foreman had looked awesome in winning the title from Joe Frazier and in defending it against Ken Norton. Neither fight lasted two full rounds.
Ali tried jabbing and moving in the first two rounds, but couldn’t keep the powerful champion at bay. Then Ali decided to go the ropes and let Foreman tire himself out punching at Ali’s defensive shell. Occasionally Ali would flurry off the ropes. That’s what he did late in the fifth round when he landed eight solid punches to Foreman’s head and took command of the fight. Ali knocked an exhausted Foreman out in the eighth round.
Ali vs. Frazier
Oct. 1, 1975.
After the fight, Ali said it “was the closest thing to death” he had experienced. It was billed as the Thrilla in Manila and that’s what it turned out to be. Ali and Frazier, both thought by most boxing observers to have seen their best days, again brought the best out of one another. It was the third match between the two, Ali having won a 12-round decision Jan. 28, 1984, when neither man was champion.
At one point, Ali told Frazier, “They told me Joe Frazier was through.”
“They lied,” said Frazier, who then hit Ali with a left hook.
Ali retained the title when Frazier, who could not see, was kept by trainer Eddie Futch from answering the bell for the 15th round.
Ali vs. Spinks
Sept. 15, 1978
Ali avenged his upset loss to Leon Spinks and became the first three-time heavyweight champion by scoring a clear-cut decision in the New Orleans Super Dome.
The 36-year-old Ali, cheered by most people in the crowd of 70,000, frustrated the 25-year-old Spinks, consistently beating him to the punch. Ali won 10 rounds of the 15 on each of two officials’ cards and 11 rounds on the third.
“It’s my biggest fight because I’m older and I realize it’s my last fight,” Ali said.
Ali vs. Holmes
Oct. 2, 1980
“I am the master of illusion,” Ali said of his svelte 217 -pound figure a few days before ending a 15-month retirement by fighting Larry Holmes in a bid to win the title for a fourth time at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. He certainly was, and one of the people he fooled was himself.
Ali looked inept as Holmes toyed with him until Angelo Dundee refused to let Ali answer the bell for the 11th round.
Ali fought one more time, losing a 10-round decision to Trevor Berbick Dec. 11, 1981, at Nassau, Bahamas.