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Highlights of Muhammad Ali’s boxing career

Muhammad Ali, George Foreman
Muhammad Ali, top, knocks down George Foreman during their heavyweight championship bout in Zaire on Oct. 30, 1974.
(Associated Press)

Here are the highlights of Muhammad Ali’s legendary boxing career:

1964

Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, stunned the boxing world in February by upsetting seemingly invincible champion Sonny Liston. At 22, Clay was the youngest boxer to take a title from a reigning heavyweight champion.

Shortly after, he announced that he had joined the Nation of Islam and had changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Ali famously said “Cassius Clay is my slave name.”

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1965

In the Ali-Liston rematch in May, Ali won a controversial fight with a first-round knockout in what was deemed a “phantom punch.”

Later that year Ali fought Floyd Patterson, a former heavyweight champion. Ali believed Patterson had made disparaging remarks about his religion, and many felt Ali intentionally prolonged the lopsided fight before stopping Patterson with a a 12-round technical knockout. Ali had called Patterson a “white man’s champion.”

1967

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Ali was criticized again for his antics against Ernie Terrell in a February title fight. Between punches, Ali taunted Terrell, saying, “What’s my name, Uncle Tom? What’s my name?” Ali, who won a lopsided 15-round decision, was upset that before the fight Terrell called him Clay, instead of Ali.

Ali was stripped of his boxing title in 1967 for his opposition to the Vietnam War. He was drafted but refused to enter the armed services, saying, “I ain’t got no quarrel with the Vietcong. No Vietcong ever called me nigger.”

1967-70

Ali didn’t fight from March 1967 until October 1970, his prime boxing years taken away. In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Ali’s conviction for evading the draft in an 8-0 ruling.

1971

On March 8, in what was billed as the “Fight of the Century,” undefeated heavyweight champions Ali and Joe Frazier fought at Madison Square Garden. Before the fight Ali called Frazier a “dumb tool of the white establishment.” Ali was knocked down by Frazier’s vicious left hook in the 15th round, as Ali lost his first fight in a unanimous decision.

1973

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Ali was handed the second loss of his career to little-known Ken Norton, who broke Ali’s jaw during their March fight. Ali narrowly won the rematch, by decision, against Norton in September.

1974

Dubbed “The Rumble in the Jungle,” Ali took on the intimidating and hard-punching champion George Foreman for the heavyweight title in Kinshasa, Zaire, on Oct. 30. Ali was 32, didn’t have the same speed or reflexes as in his ‘20s. But his “Rope-A-Dope” strategy tired out Foreman and Ali regained the title with an eight-round knockout.

1975

Ali beat Frazier by decision in a non-title bout in 1974.  After Ali regained his title he fought Frazier for the final time on Oct. 1. Called the “Thrilla in Manila,” Ali won by a technical knockout after Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch, refused to let Frazier answer the bell for the 15th round. After the fight, Ali said it “was the closest thing to dying that I know.”

1978

An unprepared Ali lost his title by a split decision in February to Leon Spinks, who entered the ring with just seven professional fights. Ali won the rematch in September, becoming the first heavyweight champion to win the belt three times.

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1980

Instead of staying retired, the 38-year-old Ali fought WBC heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, Ali’s former sparring partner. Ali was dominated during the Oct. 2,  bout in Las Vegas. Ali’s trainer, Angelo Dundee, stopped the fight before the 11th round. It was Ali’s only loss by a knockout.

1981

Pleas to stay retired didn’t stop Ali from fighting Trevor Berbick. Ali lost a 10-round decision in his final fight on Dec. 11.  Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome in 1984.


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