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Muhammed Ali Turns 66 Today

Heayweight great Muhammed Ali (59-5, 37 KOs) turned 66 years-old today. Ali, who retired in 1981, following back to back loses to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick. A three-time world heavyweight champion and a former Olympic Gold medalist, Ali had signature wins over a tremendous amount of well-known heavyweights, such as Joe Frazier, Sonny Liston, George Foreman, Ken Norton, Jerry Quarry, Floyd Patterson, Leon Spinks, Jimmy Ellis, Bob Foster, George Chuvalo, to name just a few.

In the 60s, Ali refused to be drafted into the Vietnam war, taking on the status of a conscientious objector. Ali subsequently was stripped of his heavyweight title, and had his boxing license suspended for the next three years. Ali would arguably lose some of the best years of his career, yet when he came back in 1970, he still was an incredible fighter, although slower of foot and heavier than he had been in 1967. Ali would go on to fight Frazier in one of the biggest heavyweight bouts in history in 1971, a bout that Ali would lose by 15-round unanimous decision.

What’s especially impressive about what Ali did, despite losing, was that he fought Frazier after having fought only twice previously coming off of the three year lay. That’s almost unheard of when you compare it to today’s heavyweights, for example, Joe Mesi, who fights seven times coming off a two year suspension, wasting two years fighting what appears to be a never-ending string of tuneups fights. The loss to Frazier didn’t slow Ali down, as he rolled over a huge list of popular heavyweights in the next two years, mowing down Quarry, Foster, Floyd Patterson, Joe Bugner, before suffering a 12-round split decision defeat to Ken Norton in March 1973.

However, Ali would avenge the defeat six months later, returning the favor by defeating Norton by 12-round split decision. Four fights later, Ali regained the heavyweight title when he stopped an exhausted George Foreman in the 8th round in October 1974. Ali would hold onto the title for another four years before losing it to a young Leon Spinks in February 1978. As was the case in his defeats to Frazier and Norton, Ali avenged his defeat by soundly defeating Spinks by a 15-round unanimous decision in September 1978.

That, unfortunately, was the last victory of Ali’s career, as he would take two years off from boxing and when he returned in October 1980 against a young Larry Holmes, Ali was a totally shot fighter. Holmes would unmercifully pound Ali throughout the fight, blackening both his eyes. Ali’s trainer Angelo Dundee finally stopped the bout in between rounds after the 10th. Instead of calling it quits, Ali would fight one more time, taking on Trevor Berbick, who easily beat a badly slowed Ali by 10-round unanimous decision in December 1981. Following this bout, Ali finally ended his 20-year professional boxing career, although perhaps three years too late.

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