AmericanPop is honored to present a breathtaking Photographic Retrospective featuring some of the rarest, most compelling photos of the greatest professional boxer in the history of the world 3-Time World’s Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali. This retrospective will take you through three decades of the champ’s illustrious career.
ROME OLYMPIC GAMES (1960) – In a circumstance and setting fit for the legendary gladiator that he would eventually become, 18-year-old Cassius Clay wins the Gold Medal in the Light Heavyweight Division. In Rome, Clay’s transcendent talent was immediately evident as he breezed through the competition. Indeed, Cassius Clay was a perfect 4 for 4 in his Olympic fights. His victory in the Gold Medal match over 3-Time European Champion Zbigniew Pietrzykowski was the culmination of his impeccable pugilistic performance.
Following the 1960 Rome Olympics and his Gold Medal Performance, the talent rich kid from Louisville, Kentucky, still known to the world as Cassius Clay, made the inevitable leap into the ranks of the professional. On Saturday October 29th of 1960, Clay made his professional debut at Freedom Hall in Louisville. Kentucky easily dispersing of a journeyman fighter named Tunney Hunker, in a 6 Round unanimous decision.
By 1964 Cassius Clay was ready for his shot at the brass ring, or heavyweight title as it were. Very early in the year, on February 25th the 22-year-old Clay travelled to Miami Beach, Florida and stepped into the ring to fight the hard-hitting Heavyweight Champion, Sonny Liston. For his part, Liston had won the title two years earlier in 1962, when he defeated Floyd Patterson. Clay spent the days and weeks leading up to the fight mouthing off to Liston, taunting him at every opportunity. This made the fight highly anticipated, and exponentially increased the pressure on Clay to back up his brash pre-fight pronouncements. Unfortunately for Liston, Clay was able to back up every obnoxious wrd that he uttered. Clay was lightning quick, much to swift of hands and feet for Liston to ever really have a chance at corralling Clay, not at any point in the match. By the 6th round of the fight, a badly cut and severely bruised Liston declared that he was done, and refused to answer the bell for the 7th round. This gave the exuberant Cassius Clay his first World Heavyweight Championship by Technical Knockout (i.e. TKO).
Cassius Clay displays exuberance as he “Shook up the world!”
On May 25th of 1965 the freshly named Muhammad Ali (He dropped his birth name Cassius Clay soon after winning the title in 1964) met Sonny Liston in Lewiston, Maine for a heavyweight title rematch. As it turned out it wasn’t much of a fight as in the 1st round Ali knocked Liston out with what would go down in history as the ‘phantom punch’. In reality it was a precisely executed right cross that landed on Liston’s head with blistering speed, and devastating effect. Liston went down, and Ali was awarded a 1st round knockout. The champ had proved to the entire world that he was no fluke.
MUHAMMAD ALI // The Champ Returns after Exile // Photo Gallery: 1970’s
In 1967 Muhammad Ali refused induction into the United States Military on religious grounds in addition to political grounds (i.e. conscientious objector). As a result he was convicted for refusing to report for military induction. As a result Ali was stripped of his Heavyweight title and subsequently was unable to get a boxing license in any of the 50 states in the union. Therefor for the rest of the 1960’s and a portion of his prime physical development, Ali was unable to fight. Then the calendar turned to 1970. In 1971 the appeal case of Clay v. United States, 403 U.S. 698 (1971) was heard by the court and Muhammad Ali successfully won his appeal, and his 1967 conviction was overturned. Muhammad Ali was back in the game, and back in the business of prize fighting.
The road to Muhammad Ali’s comeback to heavyweight champion prominence led directly into Joe Frazier country. Indeed, these two men would engage in a series (3) epic heavyweight boxing showdowns that history will fondly remember. The first of the three happened on March 8th of 1971. It pitted reigning champion Joe Frazier (26–0, 23 KO) versus Muhammad Ali (31–0, 25 KOs). It was billed as the ‘Fight of the Century’ with Ali representing the anti-war youth counter-culture of America, and Frazier representing the establishment. To be clear, this was not exactly a fair position for Frazier. He was not an establishment figure, and he had suffered his fair share of discrimination from the establishment. However, this is how it was portrayed and the stage was set for a late winter showdown inside the world’s greatest arena – Madison Square Garden.
ALI vs. FRAZIER I // March 8th 1971 // Madison Square Garden New York City
Joe Frazier came out as the victor in this epic 1st showdown, winning a unanimous decision after 15 rounds of heated pugilistic combat.
After having lost the first meeting against Joe Frazier, Ali was primed for a rematch. The public couldn’t be more enthusiastic, and Ali was in the rare form during the pre-fight hype in the days and weeks leading up to the match. Ali was all over Frazier in verbal sparring, including an on-air, in studio brawl during an ABC Wide World of Sports segment, which was instigated by Ali talking trash and insulting Frazier by calling him ‘ignorant’ – this just 5 days before the fight.
ALI vs. FRAZIER II // Jan 28th 1974 // Madison Square Garden New York City
This second match in the trilogy did not disappoint as Ali and Frazier engaged in a war of wills. For his part Ali used several different strategies than he had used in their first meeting, specifically not allowing Frazier to get inside and work Ali’s body. Ali effectively used his jab to keep Frazier at bay. The result of ‘Superfight II’ was an Ali victory by unanimous decision after 12 grueling rounds.
ALI vs. FRAZIER III // Oct 1st 1975 // Thrilla in Manila // Quezon City Philippines
Muhammad Ali was victorious in the 3rd installment of this epic trilogy. It was a grueling affair which Ali was later quoted as saying that it was the closest to death that he had ever felt in a boxing match. This conquest gave Ali two victories out of three matches, as a result he was the overall victor in this legendary series of fights that are forever part of professional boxing lore. Indeed, fights and series of fights of this caliber rarely if ever happen and certainly do not hold the attention of the entire world.
ALI vs. FORMAN // Oct 30th 1974 // Rumble in the Jungle // Republic of Congo
‘The Rumble in the Jungle’ was an epic heavyweight super fight between the previously undefeated, and seriously intimidating phenom George Foreman, who was at the time the world heavyweight champion; and former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali. This fight was promoted by future boxing promoting legend, Don King. Both fighters agreed to the $5 million payday as well as traveling to Zaire, Africa to do battle. Attendance for this bout was an astounding 60,000 souls, as it was billed the ‘Greatest Sporting Event of the 20th Century’.
Early in the fight it seemed as if Ali was getting killed by Foreman, who for his part was quite angry and throwing massive broadside shots at Ali’s body. Ali adopted a ‘rope-a-dope’ strategy in which he would lean back against the ropes as Foreman would pound him with right crosses and left hooks. This went on for a number of rounds … and then … in the 8th round, like a sleeping elephant, Ali woke up and hit Foreman with a series of ruthless combinations, including a 5-punch combination, that crescendoed with a stunning left hook, followed by a vicious right cross that snapped Foreman’s head back in violent fashion. Foreman wobbled and went down, as Ali stood over him with his right hand cocked, but never thrown. Once Foreman was down it was unclear whether or not he would get up, and in fact he did not get to his feet before the count of 9. The referee stepped in and called the fight. Muhammad Ali had defeated the big bad George Foreman, winning back his title in the process. Indeed, once again, Muhammad Ali had done the impossible.
THEIDIOTSGUIDES : MUHAMMAD ALI BONUS GALLERY
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