Fight by fight: Muhammad Ali's legendary career

 

A fight-by-fight breakdown of the boxing career of the legendary Muhammad Ali. 

1. Oct. 29, 1960 (1-0)

Opponent: Tunney Hunsaker (15-9-1)

Site: Freedom Hall State Fairground, Louisville

Weight: 192 pounds

The skinny: Hunsaker was the police chief of Fayetteville, W.Va., when he fought Cassius Clay, who won a six-round unanimous decision. Hunsaker’s eyes were swollen shut by the end of the fight, and afterward he said, “Clay was as fast as lightning. I tried every trick I knew to throw at him off balance, but he was just too good.” In his autobiography, Ali said Hunsaker dealt him one of the hardest body blows he ever took during his career. Ali and Hunsaker became good friends and stayed in touch through the years. Hunsaker said he did not agree with Ali’s decision to refuse military service, but he praised him as a great humanitarian and athlete.

2. Dec. 27, 1960 (2-0)

Opponent: Herb Siler (1-1)

Site: Miami Beach (Fla.) Auditorium

Weight: 193 pounds

The skinny: Siler became Clay’s first knockout victim, going down in the fourth round of a scheduled eight-round fight. Twelve years later, Siler was convicted of manslaughter and served a seven-year prison sentence. He died in 2001 in Miami.

3. Jan. 17, 1961 (3-0)

Opponent: Tony Esperti (9-6-2)

Site: Miami Beach Auditorium

Weight: 195 pounds

The skinny: On his 19th birthday, Clay knocked out Esperti in the third round of a scheduled eight-round fight. Esperti, nicknamed “Big Tony,” was an infamous character around Miami Beach. When his boxing career ended, Esperti found himself in trouble often. According to TheMiami Herald in 1967, Esperti was arrested 11 times for assault and battery, and each time the victims declined to press charges. On Oct. 31, 1967, at a restaurant in North Bay Village, Fla., Esperti was arrested for allegedly gunning down Thomas “The Enforcer” Altamura, a reputed mobster. According to newspaper reports, Altamura was waiting to be seated at the restaurant when Esperti allegedly walked up and shot him to death. Esperti died in 2002 at the age of 72.

4. Feb. 7, 1961 (4-0)

Opponent: Jimmy Robinson (1-2-0)

Site: Miami Beach Convention Hall

Weight: 193.5 pounds

The skinny: Clay was supposed to fight Willie Guelat on the undercard of the light-heavyweight title fight between Harold Johnson and Jesse Bowdry, but Guelat failed to show up. Clay knocked out Guelat’s replacement, Robinson, in 94 seconds.

5. Feb. 21, 1961 (5-0)

Opponent: Donnie Fleeman (35-11-1)

Site: Miami Beach Auditorium

Weight: 190 pounds

The skinny: Clay won by technical knockout in the seventh round of a scheduled eight-round fight. Fleeman, Clay’s first true opponent, was a tough Texan, but he couldn’t cope with Clay’s speed. Fleeman plodded forward, and Clay picked him off at will. The fight took seven rounds mainly because Clay decided that seven was enough. Fleeman, 28, retired after the fight.

 

6. April 19, 1961 (6-0)

Opponent: LaMar Clark (44-2)

Site: Freedom Hall State Fairground, Louisville

Weight: 192.5 pounds

The skinny: Clay knocked out Clark, a former chicken farmer from Utah who had won 44consecutive fights by KO, in the second round of a scheduled 10-round fight. Clay destroyed Clark, breaking his nose in the process. Clark, 27, retired after the fight.

7. June 26, 1961 (7-0)

Opponent: Kolo “Duke” Sabedong (15-11-1)

Site: Las Vegas Convention Center

Weight: 194.5 pounds

The skinny: Clay, fighting for the first time in Las Vegas, the new mecca of boxing, won a 10-round unanimous decision against Sabedong, a strapping 6-6 Hawaiian. Sabedong, 31, started out fighting dirty and hit Clay below the belt to try to provoke an upset. But he lacked the speed and skill to bother Clay, who blamed his sluggish showing on trainer Angelo Dundee’s decision to fly them to Las Vegas rather than take the train. Sabedong died in 2008 at the age of 78.

8. July 22, 1961 (8-0)

Opponent: Alonzo Johnson (18-7)

Site: Freedom Hall State Fairground, Louisville

Weight: 192.5 pounds

The skinny: Johnson was the first nationally ranked fighter to get in the ring with Clay. He was a seasoned veteran but had no real punching power. Johnson gave Clay a tough fight on a sweltering summer night. The bout went the distance, with Clay winning a unanimous decision. One judge, however, scored it 48-47 for Clay, who was booed by the hometown fans for the first time for his less-than-inspired performance.

9. Oct. 7, 1961 (9-0)

Opponent: Alex Miteff (25-10-1)

Site: Freedom Hall State Fairground, Louisville

Weight: 188 pounds

The skinny: Miteff, a 26-year-old from Argentina, was a promising heavyweight contender known for his body attacks, but he was no match for Clay. The “Louisville Lip” must have taken to heart the booing from his previous fight because he brutally pounded Miteff, knocking him out in the sixth round. Miteff retired after losing his next fight. He tried to come back five years later but retired for good after being KO’d by Jerry Quarry in the third round in April 1967. Miteff had a small part in the movie Requiem for a Heavyweight, which starred Anthony Quinn and Jackie Gleason.

10. Nov. 29, 1961 (10-0)

Opponent: Willi Besmanoff (44-27-7)

Site: Freedom Hall State Fairground, Louisville

Weight: 193 pounds

The skinny: Besmanoff, 29, was a German who had fought the likes of Sonny Liston, George Chuvalo, Zora Folley and Archie Moore before Clay. Before the fight, Clay told a TV interviewer, “I’m embarrassed to get in the ring with this unrated duck. I’m ready for top contenders like Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston. Besmanoff must fall in seven!” Besmanoff was insulted and came right out after Clay. But Clay toyed with him for six rounds, then KO’d him in the seventh, determined to make good on his prediction.

11. Feb. 10, 1962 (11-0)

Opponent: Sonny Banks (10-2)

Site: Madison Square Garden, New York

Weight: 194.5 pounds

The skinny: This was Clay’s first fight at Madison Square Garden. Before the fight, Clay said, “The man must fall in the round I call. In fact, Banks must fall in four.” But Banks, 21, became the first to put Clay on the canvas when he knocked him down in the first round. Banks went down in Round 2, then took a beating from Clay before the fight was stopped early in the fourth round. Three years later, Banks died from injuries suffered in a nine-round bout vs. Leotis Martin.

12. March 28, 1962 (12-0)

Opponent: Don Warner (12-6-2)

Site: Miami Beach Convention Hall

Weight: 195 pounds

The skinny: Warner was a two-handed puncher who had a good record of wins inside the distance. “He was a tough left-hooker from Philadelphia,” said Dundee, Ali’s trainer. Clay said Warner, 22, would go down in the fifth round. But he sent a bloodied Warner through the ropes in Round 4. Asked why he had taken Warner in the fourth when he had predicted the fifth, Clay said he had to deduct a round because Warner neglected to shake hands at the weigh-in.

13. April 23, 1962 (13-0)

Opponent: George Logan (22-7-1)

Site: Los Angeles Sports Arena

Weight: 196.5 pounds

The skinny: Logan threw a lot of left hooks, most of which missed, while Clay’s quick hands opened cuts over Logan’s eyes. The referee stopped it in the fourth round. But more significant for Clay was his chance meeting with budding photojournalist Howard Bingham, and the two formed a lifelong friendship.

14. May 19, 1962 (14-0)

Opponent: Billy Daniels (16-0)

Site: St. Nicholas Arena, New York

Weight: 196 pounds

The skinny: Daniels, from New York, was 6-4 and an Air Force veteran. He was a good boxer with decent punching power and came into the fight undefeated and rated 10th in the world heavyweight rankings by Ring Magazine. He was featured on the cover with Clay as two young unbeaten contenders. Daniels was cut in the second round, and that caused the fight to be stopped in the seventh.

15. July 20, 1962 (15-0)

Opponent: Alejandro Lavorante (19-3)

Site: Los Angeles Sports Arena

Weight: 199 pounds

The skinny: Lavorante was another Argentine fighter who was discovered by Jack Dempsey. He was Hollywood handsome with a great knockout punch. But Clay knocked out Lavorante in the fifth round. In his next fight two months later vs. John Riggins (not the football player), Lavorante was KO’d in the sixth round, fell into a coma and died from his injuries 19 months later at age 27.

16. Nov. 15, 1962 (16-0)

Opponent: Archie Moore (184-22-11)

Site: Los Angeles Sports Arena

Weight: 204 pounds

The skinny: Moore was one of the greatest light heavyweights and most prolific fighters of all time (219 professional fights). But he was 45 when he fought Clay. Clay knocked him down three times in the fourth round and won by TKO in the fourth. Moore’s next fight was his last, and it was against wrestler Mike DiBiase in Phoenix. Moore beat up on DiBiase and won by TKO in the third round, ending his 27-year career with a victory.

17. Jan. 24, 1963 (17-0)

Opponent: Charley Powell (23-6-3)

Site: Civic Arena, Pittsburgh

Weight: 205 pounds

The skinny: Powell was a former pro football player and the brother of American Football League receiving great Art Powell. Charley Powell was bigger than Clay and not intimidated by him. Powell started strong and caught Clay with a few body punches, but he soon realized the deceptiveness of Clay’s strength. Clay KO’d Powell at the end of Round 3, again finishing an opponent in the round he had predicted. At this point, Clay had predicted knockouts in 13 of his 14 KO victories.

18. March 13, 1963 (18-0)

Opponent: Doug Jones (21-3-1)

Site: Madison Square Garden, New York

Weight: 202.5 pounds

The skinny: Before a sold-out Garden crowd (the first sellout there since Rocky Marciano vs. Joe Louis in 1951), Jones hurt Clay early and often, staggering him in the first round. By the middle rounds, Clay, realizing he was in a real fight, started using his powerful jab. While the ringside judges gave Clay a narrow victory, the crowd thought Jones had won and booed Clay unmercifully. The disputed bout was named Fight of the Year for 1963 by Ring Magazine.

19. June 18, 1963 (19-0)

Opponent: Henry Cooper (27-8-1)

Site: Wembley Stadium, London

Weight: 207 pounds

The skinny: Cooper, 29, was a top fighter in Europe and had a powerful left hook. But he was a big underdog against young and brash Clay and was outweighed by 21 pounds. Cooper came out strong and bloodied Clay’s nose in the first round. But by the third round, Clay had opened a bad gash over Cooper’s left eye. Instead of finishing him, though, Clay danced around and taunted Cooper. Late in the fourth round, Cooper connected with a left hook that floored and hurt Clay. He got up as the round ended. Clay then opened the gash further in the fifth round, and the fight was stopped. Clay’s fifth-round KO prediction came true.

20. Feb. 25, 1964 (20-0)

Opponent: Sonny Liston (35-1)

Site: Miami Beach Convention Hall

Weight: 210.5 pounds

The skinny: Finally, Clay was fighting for the world heavyweight title in one of the most anticipated bouts of that era. Liston had won his title by knocking out champion Floyd Patterson in the first round. Clay came in as a 7-1 underdog, yet taunted Liston before the fight, repeatedly calling the ex-convict, who had alleged ties to organized crime, a “big, ugly bear.” From the start, Clay’s speed, quickness and movement made Liston’s heavy punches look slow. Clay complained that his eyes were burning after the fourth round, and he couldn’t see. Dundee rinsed his eyes out with a sponge and pushed him out for the fifth. Clay stayed away from Liston in the fifth, and by the sixth round his vision had cleared. He began connecting on combinations at will, and at the end of the sixth round Liston said he couldn’t continue, complaining of a shoulder injury. Clay ran around the ring shouting, “I am the greatest!” and “I shook up the world!” The next day, Clay changed his name to Cassius X, and then Muhammad Ali.

21. May 25, 1965 (21-0)

Opponent: Sonny Liston (35-2)

Site: St. Dominic’s Hall, Lewiston, Maine

Weight: 206 pounds

The skinny: Because of the way the first fight ended, boxing authorities order a rematch in remote Lewiston. Only 2,434 fans were present, the lowest attendance ever for a heavyweight title fight. The end of the fight remains one of the most controversial in boxing history. Halfway through the first round, Liston fell to the canvas in what many have argued was not a legitimate knockdown. Ali did not retreat to his corner, but stood over Liston, yelling at him, “Get up and fight, sucker!” The photo that captured that moment became one of the most famous in all of sports. Referee Jersey Joe Walcott, a former heavyweight champion, appeared confused, and 20 seconds passed. By then Liston had gotten up and resumed boxing. But Nat Fleischer, publisher of The Ring, alerted Walcott that Liston had been down more than the requisite 10 seconds, and Walcott stopped the fight, giving Ali a first-round knockout. Some claimed that Liston had bet against himself and took a dive because he owed money to the Mafia. Liston said years later in an interview that he feared for his safety from Nation of Islam extremists who supported Ali.

22. Nov. 22, 1965 (22-0)

Opponent: Floyd Patterson (43-4)

Site: Las Vegas Convention Center

Weight: 210 pounds

The skinny: Patterson, on the comeback trail after two losses to Liston, said in a pre-fight interview, “This fight is a crusade to reclaim the title from the Black Muslims. As a Catholic, I am fighting Clay (he persisted in calling Ali by his birth name) as a patriotic duty. I am going to return the crown to America.” Ali toyed with Patterson throughout the fight before winning on a 12th-round TKO.

23. March 29, 1966 (23-0)

Opponent: George Chuvalo (34-11-2)

Site: Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto

Weight: 214.5 pounds

The skinny: Chuvalo, a Canadian, is widely regarded as having the best chin in boxing history, having never been knocked down in 93 fights. This fight would have been for Ali’s world title, but boxing politics caused it to be called “a heavyweight showdown.” The fight went the distance, with Ali winning a unanimous decision. “He’s the toughest guy I ever fought,” Ali said afterward. Dundee said of Chuvalo: “He never stopped coming on. You’ve got to admire a man like that.”

24. May 21, 1966 (24-0)

Opponent: Henry Cooper (33-11-1)

Site: Arsenal Football Stadium, London

Weight: 201.5 pounds

The skinny: After the controversial first fight, the second was for the world title, but it was fairly anticlimactic. Cooper, who had a tendency to suffer cuts, succumbed again to his weakness, and a bad cut over his left eye stopped the fight after six rounds.

25. Aug. 6, 1966 (25-0)

Opponent: Brian London (35-13)

Site: Earls Court Arena, London

Weight: 209 pounds

The skinny: London, known as the “Blackpool Tower,” was a mediocre boxer who had been beaten by Cooper three times before he fought Ali. Ingemar Johansson had said London would have struggled to beat his sister. Ali toyed with him for a couple rounds before knocking him unconscious in the third round at Dundee’s insistence.

PHOTOS: Ali through the years

26. Sept. 10, 1966 (26-0)

Opponent: Karl Mildenberger (49-2-3)

Site: Wald Stadium, Frankfurt, West Germany

Weight: 203 pounds

The skinny: Ali continued his European tour. He was tired and stressed by a return to the USA to continue his fight against the military draft and was nowhere near his best. He cut Mildenberger in the fourth and dropped him in the fifth, but the German rallied to cause Ali discomfort as the champion worked to finish off the fight. In the 12th round, with Mildenberger on the ropes, referee Teddy Waltham stopped the fight. Ali must have been grateful. At the airport the next day, Waltham’s fee of 1,000 pounds was stolen. When Ali heard, he gave Waltham the money from his own pocket.

27. Nov. 14, 1966 (27-0)

Opponent: Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams (65-5-1)

Site: Houston Astrodome

Weight: 212.7 pounds

The skinny: Williams, 33, once a formidable fighter, was worn out by this time. He had been shot in the stomach by a police officer, attacked by a girlfriend with a meat cleaver and gone toe-to-toe twice with Liston, being KO’d early in both fights. Ali became concerned that Williams might be badly hurt if the bout went on too long. An indoor-record 35,460 saw Ali, in his own words, “the night I was at my best.” Howard Cosell told boxing writer Thomas Hauser, “The greatest Ali ever was as a fighter was against Williams. That night, he was the most devastating fighter who ever lived.” He also did the “Ali Shuffle” for the first time as a pro before knocking out Williams in the third round.

 

28. Feb. 6, 1967 (28-0)

Opponent: Ernie Terrell (39-4)

Site: Houston Astrodome

Weight: 212 pounds

The skinny: Before a record indoor fight crowd of 37,212, Terrell, who held the World Boxing Association belt, insisted on calling Ali by his old name, Cassius Clay. Big mistake. Ali broke a bone under Terrell’s left eye early on and damaged his retina. By the middle rounds Terrell flinched every time Ali drew back his fist. Ali carried him through all 15 rounds, taunting him with every punch by saying, “What’s my name, Uncle Tom? What’s my name?” The fight was described by sports writer Tex Maule as “a wonderful demonstration of boxing skill and a barbarous display of cruelty.”

29. March 22, 1967 (29-0)

Opponent: Zora Folley (74-7-4)

Site: Madison Square Garden, New York

Weight: 211.5 pounds

The skinny: Just before the fight, Ali lost his appeal against his 1-A classification for the draft and was ordered to appear in Louisville on April 11 for induction into the U.S. Army. In the first heavyweight title fight in the Garden in 15 years, Ali dropped Folley in the fourth round, then knocked out the 35-year-old in the seventh round with a quick right. This would be Ali’s last fight for three-and-a-half years.

30. Oct. 26, 1970 (30-0)

Opponent: Jerry Quarry (37-4-4)

Site: City Auditorium, Atlanta

Weight: 213.5 pounds

The skinny: Quarry was a tough heavyweight who was perfectly capable of winning the heavyweight title that was held by Joe Frazier. He was not intimidated by Ali, but when he suffered a deep cut over his left eye that his corner was unable to close, referee Tony Perez called it after the third round. Quarry, bitterly disappointed, got off his chair and moved toward Ali, but he was stopped by Ali’s cornerman, Bundini Brown.

31. Dec. 7, 1970 (31-0)

Opponent: Oscar Bonavena (46-6-1)

Site: Madison Square Garden, New York

Weight: 212 pounds

The skinny: Ali needed a court order to allow him to fight in New York. His opponent was the rugged Argentine known for not listening to his trainers (Gil Clancy for this fight). Ali had predicted a ninth-round KO and tagged Bonavena on cue, but when he moved in for the finish, Bonavena threw a desperate left hook that shook Ali. “I was numb all over,” Ali later admitted. By the 15th round, with both men exhausted, Ali threw a heavy left hook that knocked down Bonavena, then dropped him twice more for the KO. Afterward, Ali shouted: “I want Joe Frazier!” And one of the great rivalries in sports was born.

32. March 8, 1971 (31-1)

Opponent: Joe Frazier (26-0)

Site: Madison Square Garden, New York

Weight: 215 pounds

The skinny: This was a landmark bout, not only for its promotion as “The Fight of the Century,” but also for the purse of $5 million, which was unheard of at the time. The boxers were to split it. Ali called Frazier an Uncle Tom and suggested that any black person who supported Frazier instead of him was a traitor to his race. Frazier fumed and trained like never before. Frazier won the early rounds and was relentless throughout, winning a unanimous decision in one of the fiercest fights of all time while handing Ali his first loss.

33. July 26, 1971 (32-1)

Opponent: Jimmy Ellis (30-6)

Site: Houston Astrodome

Weight: 220.5 pounds

The skinny: A month before the bout, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Ali’s draft conviction and quashed his five-year prison sentence. Ellis was a sparring partner who had fought more than 1,000 rounds against Ali. He even had Dundee in his corner with Ali’s blessing. But Ali stung Ellis with a straight right in the fourth round and treated the rest of the fight as if it were a sparring session, and the referee stopped the fight in the 12th round after Ali threw another hard right, sending Ellis into the ropes.

34. Nov. 17, 1971 (33-1)

Opponent: Buster Mathis (29-2)

Site: Houston Astrodome

Weight: 227 pounds

The skinny: Mathis came in at 256 pounds and was overweight, while Ali was the heaviest he’d ever been. It has been said that Ali took it easy on Mathis, hardly training for the fight, which went the distance. Ali was criticized by some for not finishing Mathis. But he said he would not hurt a man just for the benefit of the writers. “I gotta sleep at night,” Ali said.

35. Dec. 26, 1971 (34-1)

Opponent: Juergen Blin (28-8-6)

Site: Hallenstadion Arena, Zurich

Weight: 220 pounds

The skinny: Blin was a former butcher from Hamburg. He might have been able to cut meat, but he couldn’t cut it in the ring with Ali, who clinched and stuck to the ropes until the seventh round, when he dropped Blin. The German got up, but his corner threw in the towel.

36. April 1, 1972 (35-1)

Opponent: Mac Foster (28-1)

Site: Nippon Budokan, Tokyo

Weight: 226 pounds

The skinny: This was the first major prizefight held in Asia. Foster, like Ellis, was a former Ali sparring partner. Ali weighed in at 226, 1 pound under his heaviest to date. Ali won the 15-rounder but in disappointing fashion. Many doubted he would find the form needed to regain the title.

37. May 1, 1972 (36-1)

Opponent: George Chuvalo (66-17-2)

Site: Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver, British Columbia

Weight: 217.5 pounds

The skinny: In his second fight against the Canadian, Ali hit Chuvalo at will, but the bout still went 12 rounds. Ali was loathe to hurt fighters that he could beat easily. So it was with Chuvalo.

38. June 27, 1972 (37-1)

Opponent: Jerry Quarry (43-5-4)

Site: Las Vegas Convention Center

Weight: 216.5 pounds

The skinny: Ali had little trouble in his second go-around with Quarry. By the fifth round he was entertaining the crowd, telling the ringside media, “This is an easy way to make a living.” In Round 6, Ali decided to try to close him out, but Quarry remained on his feet. The fight ended early in the seventh round after Ali, seeing that Quarry had nothing left, asked the referee to stop the fight.

39. July 19, 1972 (38-1)

Opponent: Alvin “Blue” Lewis (27-3)

Site: Croke Park, Dublin

Weight: 217.5 pounds

The skinny: Ali got a guaranteed $200,000 to fight Lewis, an ex-convict from Detroit. He gave Ali trouble early, but Ali knocked down Lewis in the middle rounds. Ali ended it in the 11th after telling Dundee he desperately had to urinate. But after the fight, it took 25 minutes before Ali could get to a bathroom.

40. Sept. 20, 1972 (39-1)

Opponent: Floyd Patterson (55-7-1)

Site: Madison Square Garden, New York

Weight: 218 pounds

The skinny: The rematch drew 17,000, and Patterson, who had lost to Ellis during Ali’s exile, looked better early on than he had in years. But Ali opened a cut on Patterson’s eyelid, and the fight was stopped in the seventh round despite Patterson’s protests.

41. Nov. 21, 1972 (40-1)

Opponent: Bob Foster (49-5)

Site: Sahara Tahoe Hotel, Stateline, Nev.

Weight: 221.5 pounds

The skinny: Ali was more than 40 pounds heavier than his opponent, who was really a light heavyweight. This fight took place in a nightclub where fans sat around dinner tables. Ali toyed with Foster until the fifth round, the one in which he had predicted victory. Foster survived four knockdowns and opened up the first cut on Ali in the ring. But Ali knocked down Foster two more times before getting an eighth-round stoppage.

42. Feb. 14, 1973 (41-1)

Opponent: Joe Bugner (43-4-1)

Site: Las Vegas Convention Center

Weight: 217.25 pounds

The skinny: Bugner, the British champion, was big, strong and a skilled technician in the ring. He and Ali fought 12 slow rounds, and Ali never was able to put him away before winning a unanimous decision. The flashiest thing in the ring that night was Ali’s robe, which was given to him by Elvis Presley.

43. March 31, 1973 (41-2)

Opponent: Ken Norton (29-1)

Site: San Diego Sports Arena

Weight: 221 pounds

The skinny: Norton came in largely unknown, having earned $300 in his previous fight, but he was about to change history. The former Joe Frazier sparring partner was trained by Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch. Norton nailed Ali with a straight right in the second round and broke his jaw. Dundee asked Ali to stop, but he fought for another 10 rounds, losing on a split decision. Immediately after the fight, Ali had surgery on his jaw. The doctor who wired it said, “I can’t fathom how he could go the whole fight like that.”

44. Sept. 10, 1973 (42-2)

Opponent: Ken Norton (30-1)

Site: The Forum, Inglewood, Calif.

Weight: 212 pounds

The skinny: The fight was promoted as “The Revenge: Battle of Broken Jaw.” Ali said of Norton: “I took a nobody and created a monster. Now I have to punish him bad.” And Ali, who never lost a rematch to someone who had beaten him, was able to overcome Norton’s awkward style and win the 12th and final round to take the decision.

45. Oct. 20, 1973 (43-2)

Opponent: Rudi Lubbers (21-1)

Site: Bung Karno Stadium, Jakarta, Indonesia

Weight: 217.5 pounds

The skinny: Ali, looking ahead to a rematch with Frazier, easily dispatched the Dutchman in 12 rounds.  A crowd of 35,000 watched the bout, and 10,000 showed up at an exhibition Ali gave in the country.

46. Jan. 28, 1974 (44-2)

Opponent: Joe Frazier (30-1)

Site: Madison Square Garden, New York

Weight: 212 pounds

The skinny: The fight was spiced up by a wrestling match between the two during a pre-fight interview with Howard Cosell. Frazier attacked his opponent after Ali called him ignorant, and both men were fined $5,000. But Ali dominated the less-than-thrilling rematch and outpunched Frazier, winning the decision.

47. Oct. 30, 1974 (45-2)

Opponent: George Foreman (40-0) 38 KOs)

Site: Mai 20 Stadium, Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo)

Weight: 216.5 pounds

The skinny: “The Rumble in the Jungle” was one of Ali’s greatest moments. It’s where “rope-a-dope” made its way into America’s lexicon. Many thought Ali, at 32, was a fading star and that powerful Foreman would have his way with “The Greatest.” But they underestimated Ali’s skills. Ali leaned on the ropes and let Foreman punch himself out, which he did by the end of the seventh round. In Round 8, Ali dropped Foreman with a pair of combinations, the final right hand sending the exhausted champion to the canvas. Foreman didn’t get up in time, and Ali was again world heavyweight champion.

48. March 24, 1975 (46-2)

Opponent: Chuck Wepner (30-9-2)

Site: Richfield (Ohio) Coliseum

Weight: 223 pounds

The skinny: Wepner was known as “The Bayonne Bleeder,” and the New Jersey native’s full-time job was liquor salesman. After Wepner stepped on Ali’s foot and knocked him down with a blow to the chest in the ninth round, Ali came back and opened cuts over Wepner’s eyes and broke his nose. With 19 seconds left in the fight, Ali knocked down Wepner for the first time in his career, and the fight was stopped. Actor Sylvester Stallone, watching on closed-circuit TV, was inspired to write the script for Rocky, based on Wepner’s challenge.

49. May 16, 1975 (47-2)

Opponent: Ron Lyle (30-2-1)

Site: Las Vegas Convention Center

Weight: 224 pounds

The skinny: Lyle was a powerful opponent who had learned to box in prison. Ali fell behind early but finished strongly, nailing Lyle with a straight right in the 11th round, dazing the big challenger. Ali then punished Lyle until the referee stopped the fight.

50. June 30, 1975 (48-2)

Opponent: Joe Bugner (51-6-1)

Site: Merdeka Stadium, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Weight: 224 pounds

The skinny: A $2 million purse lured Ali to only his second fight in a Muslim country. The rematch with Bugner didn’t generate much hype, so Ali was persuaded to say this might be his last fight to drum up interest. Ali danced around the ring most of the fight, throwing combinations every so often, and won the 15-round decision with ease.

51. Oct. 1, 1975 (49-2)

Opponent: Joe Frazier (32-2)

Site: Araneta Coliseum, Manila

Weight: 224 pounds

The skinny: “The Thrilla in Manila” might have been the greatest heavyweight fight of all time. Ali promised it would be “a killa and a thrilla and a chilla when I get the gorilla in Manila.” He mistakenly thought Frazier was over the hill. Ali attacked Frazier early, but Frazier took the momentum in the fifth round and pounded Ali for several rounds. Ali rallied in the 12th, and both men were exhausted by the end of 14 rounds. Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch, would not let his fighter come out for the 15th. Ali raised his arms in victory, then collapsed, saying later it was the closest thing to death he had ever experienced.

52. Feb. 20, 1976 (50-2)

Opponent: Jean-Pierre Coopman (24-3)

Site: Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Weight: 226 pounds

The skinny: Ali’s best friend, Howard Bingham, said this about Coopman, a Belgian: “By all accounts he was a very nice man. He just couldn’t fight.” At the news conference to announce the fight, Coopman was so pleased to meet his hero he kept trying to kiss him. “Get this guy away from me,” Ali said. Coopman’s American manager, George Kanter, trying to sell the fight, found a voodoo witch doctor whom he claimed would help Coopman win. Coopman believed in witches and was happy to be put into a deep hole and have water poured over him. He drank champagne in his locker room before the fight. Ali toyed with him until the fifth round, then dropped him.

53. April 30, 1976 (51-2)

Opponent: Jimmy Young (17-4-2)

Site: Capital Centre, Landover, Md.

Weight: 230 pounds

The skinny: Ali was the heaviest he’d ever been and produced what many thought was the worst performance of his career, but Young only wanted to survive. The fight went 15 rounds, and Ali won by unanimous decision.

54. May 24, 1976 (52-2)

Opponent: Richard Dunn (33-9)

Site: Olympic Hall, Munich, West Germany

Weight: 220 pounds

The skinny: Ali’s skills were waning, and Dunn fought hard. But Ali knocked him down five times in five rounds before the fight was called. Dunn was the last fighter Ali would knock down. After the fight, Ali donated his gloves to a British boxer who had lost his eye. Inside the gloves it was written: “Ali wins” in one, and “Round five” in the other.

55. Sept. 28, 1976 (53-2)

Opponent: Ken Norton (37-3)

Site: Yankee Stadium, New York

Weight: 221 pounds

The skinny: Ali was offered $6 million to fight Norton for a third time. Ali knew it would be difficult, and it was. Norton was well ahead after seven rounds, but Ali fought back and they were dead even by the 14th, though Norton’s corner thought he was ahead. They told Norton to just stay out of trouble. Ali won the 15th round and the fight.

56. May 16, 1977 (54-2)

Opponent: Alfredo Evangelista (14-1-1)

Site: Capital Centre, Landover, Md.

Weight: 221 pounds

The skinny: Evangelista had no business being in the ring with Ali, even with the champ’s eroded skills. Ali won easily, with the fight going the full 15 rounds. Afterward, he talked openly about retirement.

57. Sept. 29, 1977 (55-2)

Opponent: Earnie Shavers (54-5-1)

Site: Madison Square Garden

Weight: 225 pounds

The skinny: Shavers came in having stopped 52 opponents in his 54 wins. He also idolized Ali. By the end of the 12th round, Ali was ahead, eight rounds to four. Shavers rocked Ali with big punches in the 13th and 14th rounds, but Ali stole the 15th round and the fight. Afterward, Teddy Brenner, who had booked Ali at the Garden for years, told the 35-year-old that he would no longer put on his fights. Ferdie Pacheco, Ali’s doctor, told the fighter he was showing signs of kidney damage and that he should stop fighting.

58. Feb. 15, 1978 (55-3)

Opponent: Leon Spinks (6-0-1)

Site: Las Vegas Hilton Pavilion

Weight: 224 pounds

The skinny: Ali had beaten all the other Olympic gold medalists of his era, and he expected to easily defeat Spinks, 24. But Ali trained very little for the fight, and as usual, lay on the ropes as Spinks built a lead. For the first time, however, Ali could not come back and lost a split decision.

59. Sept. 15, 1978 (56-3)

Opponent: Leon Spinks (7-0-1)

Site: Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans

Weight: 221 pounds

The skinny: Spinks was stripped of the World Boxing Council belt when he refused to face Norton instead of Ali. He also was arrested and charged with cocaine possession, and he kept breaking training camp. Ali did train and controlled the WBA title fight, winning a decision to become the first man to win the heavyweight title three times. The crowd was 65,000, and the event was shown live on ABC.

60. Oct. 2, 1980 (56-4)

Opponent: Larry Holmes (35-0)

Site: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

Weight: 217 pounds

The skinny: Holmes was a former Ali sparring partner and came in as an undefeated champion. The famed Mayo Clinic had found that Ali had “mild ataxic dysarthria,” a problem using the muscles required to coordinate speaking, and that he had trouble even conducting a basic finger-to-nose coordination test. Ali was beaten for eight rounds, even though Holmes had backed off and later cried about beating a man who had given him his start and probably never should have been in the ring. Dundee mercifully stopped the fight after the 10th round.

61. Dec. 11, 1981 (56-5)

Opponent: Trevor Berbick (19-2-1)

Site: Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre, Nassau, Bahamas

Weight: 236 pounds

The skinny: More than a year after the Holmes beating, Ali fought a 10-rounder against Berbick, who nearly didn’t fight because he wanted more money. There was tremendous chaos surrounding the fight, but when it finally happened, Berbick ended Ali’s great career with a unanimous decision. Berbick, who briefly held the WBC title in 1986, was murdered in Jamaica in 2006.

PHOTOS: Charismatic Muhammad Ali


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