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Martin Luther King Jr. and the King of the Ring Muhammad Ali Celebrating birthdays!

Muhammad Ali boxing photo

By Ken Hissner:  The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech made him known worldwide. This Baptist preacher celebrated his birthday on January 15th!

The King of the Ring heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali celebrated his birthday on January 17th. The former world champion had a gift of gab second to none in sports. Many fights he called the round of stoppage. He named himself “The Greatest!”

King’s day of celebration is January 17th, the same day as Ali’s celebration of his birth.

King was a chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.

The campaign for a federal holiday in King’s honor began soon after his assassination in 1968. President Ronald Regan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed three years later.

At first, some states resisted observing the holiday as such, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays. It was officially observed in all 50 states in 2000.

In Ali’s case, he entered a sport that was anything but non-violent. At the Olympic trials, he suffered a defeat in the heavyweight division. Still, he was able to compete in the light heavyweight division, winning a birth for the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Italy.

The heavyweight winning the Gold Medal was Italy’s Franco DiPiccoli, a southpaw. Ali, like most orthodox boxers, had problems with southpaws like he did in losing to Amos Johnson in the Pan Am trials in April of 1959 by split decision.

He also had problems as a professional with Germany’s EBU European champion Karl Mildenberger winning in September of 1966 in Frankfurt, Germany, taking twelve rounds to stop his opponent.

Mildenberger had defeated America’s Eddie Machen previously. He ended his career 56-6-3.

Ali lost to Percy Price of New Jersey in the trials who went on to lose to Josef Nemec of the Czech Republic in the first round. Nemec would next fight DiPiccoli and lose.

At the Olympics, Ali would stop after two rounds Belgium’s Yvon Because. Next, he won a 5-0 decision over Russia’s Gennady Shatkov, who had defeated Luxembourg’s Ray Cillien. Shatkov was a 1956 Olympic Gold Medalist at the Australian Olympics.

Ali would next defeat Australia’s Tony Madigan 5-0. Ali had previously defeated Madigan at the intercity Golden Gloves championships in Chicago, Illinois, in March of 1959.

In the Olympic finals, Ali defeated Poland’s Zbigniew Pietrzykowski, who had defeated four opponents to get to the final. The latter would go onto the 1964 Olympics in Japan, losing in the semi-final. He would also show up when Ali was presented an award on “This is Your Life” television show.

In October, Ali would turn professional defeating Tunney Hunsaker, 17-9-1, at the Freedom Hall, in Louisville, Kentucky, Ali’s home city. Ali would go on to score four stoppages all in Florida before meeting LaMar Clark, 43-2 with 42 stoppages knocking Clark out in two rounds in Louisville.

Ali would next in his seventh fight and first ten rounder defeat 6:06 Duke Sabedong, 15-11-1, in Las Vegas, Nevada. After three more wins, Ali would hit the canvas against Sonny Banks, 10-2, in the first round only to come back and stop Banks in the fourth round, at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Two more wins and Ali encountered previously unbeaten Billy Daniels, 16-0, stopping him on a cut in seven rounds. Next, Ali knocked out Argentina’s Alejandro Lavorante, 19-3, in five rounds.

Next, Ali may have called “the round of stoppage” for the first time facing light heavyweight champion and still holder of the most knockouts in a career Archie “Old Mongoose” Moore, 185-22-10, as predicted, “Moore in 4!”

Two fights later, Ali had one of his more difficult fights defeating Doug Jones, 21-3-1, over ten rounds by scores of 8-1 and 5-4 twice at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Ali would gain hit the canvas in his next fight against England’s Henry Cooper, 27-8-1, in the fourth round. In between rounds, Ali’s glove was cut giving him extra time to re-coup. In the fifth round, as predicted, Ali stopped Cooper on cuts.

In Ali’s next fight in February of 1964, some eight months later, he would earn a title fight against world champion Sonny Liston, 35-1, stopping Liston, who sat on the stool after six rounds unable to continue due to a left arm-shoulder injury.

This writer once heard the mob whose influence on Liston put a baseball bat to that arm in the dressing room. Recently this was debunked by the son of Liston’s manager Jack Nilon, Terry Nilon, who said, “my dad was in the dressing room, and that never happened!” Ali would announce a name change after the fight, having become a Muslim from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali.

In the rematch fifteen months later in Lewiston, Maine, in May of 1965, Ali would stop Liston in the first round with either what he called a phantom or anchor punch at 2:12 of the round.

Former heavyweight champion “Jersey” Joe Walcott did a poor job of being the referee as Liston rolled around the canvas, which looked as phony as the punch Ali dropped him with, pulling back landing a right on the chin of Liston. It seems the trainer of Ali, one Angelo Dundee, may have named the punch and one of the few that believed it had the force to stop Liston.

After in Ali’s next fight having stopped former champion Floyd Patterson, 43-4, in twelve rounds, Ali would travel out of the country for the second time in Toronto, Canada. Ali won a lopsided decision over the iron chin Canadian George Chuvalo, 34-11-2. Next, Ali would return to the UK in his next two fights again stopping Cooper, and Brian London, 35-13.

Then off to Germany where Ali struggled stopping Germany’s Mildenberger, 49-2-3, in twelve rounds. In his next fight, which may have been the most impressive of his career, his hand speed was outstanding in stopping Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams, 67-5-1, in three rounds at the Astrodome, in Houston, Texas.

Two more wins again at the Astrodome over WBA champion Ernie Terrell, 39-4, going the distance but damaging the eye of Terrell badly. Then a picture-perfect knockout over Zora Folley, 74-7-4, in seven rounds at Madison Square Garden.

The rest is history after Ali lost his license for failure to enter the military was inactive for some 43 months. He would finish his career at 56-5 with 37 stoppages winning the world title a record three times.

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