Five key fights
Ali was 22 and still known as Cassius Clay when he took on
heavyweight world champion Sonny Liston for the first time on February
25, 1964 in Miami Beach, Florida.
Clay’s victory over Liston was, and still is, one of the
biggest upsets in boxing history. Clay, understandably, was
even more verbose than usual: “I am the greatest! I am the
greatest! I’m the king of the world!”
Ali beat Britain’s Joe Bugner in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in
Ali won a rematch with Frazier but arguably his finest hour
came later in 1974 when he fought George Foreman in the
‘Rumble in the Jungle’
Ali sprung from the ropes at the end of round eight and
floored Foreman with a stunning combination, becoming only
the second man in history to regain the world heavyweight
title, at the ripe old age of 32.
The brash, fast-talking challenger taunted Liston unceasingly in the
build-up to the bout, but few expected him to win.
Clay came out strong, using speed and footwork to his advantage
against the slower Liston. After the sixth round, Liston, who was
suffering from cuts and bruises under his eyes and an apparent injured
shoulder, announced he couldn't continue. Clay won the match by
technical knockout and then proclaimed to the world: "I am the
On May 25, 1965, Ali met Liston in a rematch in Lewiston, Maine.
Ali's first-round knockout victory remains one of the most controversial
results in boxing history.
Midway through the first round, Liston threw a left jab and Ali went
over it with a fast right, knocking the former champion down.
Liston went down on his back, rolled over and got to one knee, then
fell back again. Many in attendance didn't see the decisive blow --
dubbed by critics the "phantom punch" but called the "anchor punch" by
The scene was chaotic, with referee Jersey Joe Walcott struggling to
get Ali to a neutral corner and some confusion over the count.
Liston said he was hit by a "good, right-hand punch" but said he
could have continued had he heard the count clearly.
The original "Fight of the Century" at Madison Square Garden took
place on March 8, 1971. The $2.5 million payday for each fighter was the
largest for any entertainer or athlete at that time, and 50 countries
purchased rights to the telecast.
The fight more than lived up to the hype, with Ali dominating the
first three rounds with punishing jabs that marked Frazier's face.
Frazier began to take control in the fourth with a spate of left
hooks and body blows. In the 11th Frazier caught Ali, backed into a
corner, with a crushing left hook that almost floored him.
Ali survived and fought well over the next three rounds. Early in the
15th, Frazier put Ali down with another left hook. Ali, his jaw swollen,
rose quickly and stayed on his feet amid a hail of blows, but Frazier
retained the title with a unanimous decision, handing Ali his first
Rumble in the Jungle
Ali became the second fighter ever, after Floyd Patterson, to regain
the heavyweight world title when he knocked out George Foreman in the
eighth round in Kinshasa, Zaire, on October 30, 1974.
Ali came out dancing, and Foreman, feared for his punching power and
sheer physical presence, went right at him. Early in the second round,
Ali went to the ropes and covered up, letting Foreman swing away --
later dubbing the strategy the "rope a dope".
In the eighth, Ali landed a final combination, a left hook that
pulled Foreman's head up so Ali could nail him with a hard right that
sent Foreman staggering back and down. He couldn't rise before the count
and the fight was over.
Thrilla in Manilla
Ali was in a lighthearted mood in the build-up to the third
installment of his rivalry with Frazier, who was thought to be washed up
after a devastating loss to Foreman.
But Ali's taunting of Frazier as a "ugly, dumb gorilla" and "White
Man's Champion" infuriated Frazier, who trained with grim intensity for
the October 1, 1975 fight.
When Ali came out fast with a flurry of combinations, Frazier pushed
forward through the punishment and as Ali tired, Frazier stepped his
attack with damaging left hooks.
Frazier dominated the middle rounds, but began to tire in the 10th
and Ali started to turn the tide.
In the 11th, Ali connected with a series of speedy combinations that
left Frazier's eyes all but swollen shut. Frazier's trainer Eddie Futch
stopped the fight between the 14th and 15th rounds, over the objections
of Frazier, who was hailed by Ali as "the greatest fighter in the world
-- next to me." (AFP)