Reflections in the Ring:Muhammad Ali part 2

North London Boxing Club gives you the second part of our article about Muhammad Ali

It almost seems surreal that Ali lost to Frazier despite Frazier’s ability and skill. The undefeated being defeated by some pretender who held the Heavyweight title was a shock on all sides. However, the prodigal son, after returning from his exile, made a massive comeback.

His next fight fared a lot better with a win against Jimmy Ellis, which ironically enough was now open for NABF Heavyweight title which had been left vacated by the equally impressive George Foreman. The fight drew nearly 32000 people. Despite the fight being even for the initial three rounds, Ali took advantage and hurt Ellis’s hand. Ellis remarked that this right hand ‘hurts so bad I couldn’t fight my best after that’. Ali was eager to prove that the loss he suffered at the hands of Frazier had not neutered him. His evasion and dance routine during the bout allowed him to dodge many of Ellis’s attacks. He changed the directions of his right punch many times in order to allow Ellis to clip his left shoulder yet he could get an even worse punch in.

However Ellis and Ali did some mutual respect for one another and it wasn’t until the last round that Ali completely destroyed Ellis, though he did seriously damage him in earlier rounds. He gave plenty of time for Ellis to recover, an act he had not shown to previous opponents. He appeared to show mercy despite his very violent and rough trash talk. A right hook to the head and left uppercut left Ellis broken. Realising his opponent was no longer able to fight, Ali called the ref to end it with less than a minute left on the clock; the ref concurred. After the match, Ali recounted how he was friends with the man and that it wasn’t in his nature ‘to purposefully kill a man to satisfy a blood thirsty crowd’. The bout ended in a TKO after the 12th round with Ali winning on points

You can watch the match here at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-29IeeEmxE

Ali’s next few matches were against Buster Mathis which you can watch here at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZ05jb_JnJk , Jurgen Blin-https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=muhammad+ali+vs+jurgen+blin+1971&oq=ali+vs+jurgen+blin&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l2.4308j0&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8 which ended in a knockout in round 7. His next fight was against Mac Foster which ended in a win for Ali based on points, likewise with George Chavulo. He fought Jerry quarry, Floyd Pattern and Alvin Lewis all of which ended in a TKO.

However, against Bob Foster, this is when the fight proves interesting. The two men fought and yet despite this, Foster was a foe that had done something no previous opponent had done; he had formed a cut under Ali’s left eye. Ali had never been cut as a professional. Foster however was destroyed by Ali. In the fifth round, Foster was knocked down four times, and two times in the 7th round. The next knockdown however ended the match whilst in the 8th as Foster was counted out by the Ref. you can watch the match here at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOOjjfU_-8U

Ali’s next fight was against Joe Bugner which ended in a point based win.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwIE0sk7KwA

For 10 fights, Ali had been undefeated since Frazier. However, his next fight was a real shocker. He lost to Ken Norton. During the fight, Ali’s jaw was broken. Ali who wore a robe to the fight, given to him by Elvis Presley, never wore it again. However his next bout against Norton ended in a win for Ali.

You can watch the match here at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbYtHaduVZ8

Ali then fought Rudi Lubbers which ended in a decision based win by the judges. The bout lasted 12 rounds set in Jakarta Indonesia. Despite multiple hits against Lubbers, Ali could not knock him down. 12 rounds and the man was still standing, no small feat-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTuS4mfQd9E

Ali’s next fight was against his rival and his first loss, Joe Frazier. Despite being considered the least important of the three bouts between the two mean, the fight was neither boring nor was it dull, but rather the contrary. Taking place on the 28th January 1974, the fight was held in Madison Square gardens. Before the fight, Ali and Frazier met at a TV network studio to discuss their first fight with an interviewer. However during the interview, Ali called Frazier ignorant and joked about how he stayed in the hospital for 10 minutes whilst Frazier was there for a month. Frazier was irritated by this and the two men got into a fight.

During the initial rounds, Ali was taking a more passive approached with a circling and jabbing and a series of combinations that were not seen to be particularly aggressive despite the rivalry. Frazier was seen to be more aggressive in the fight, which was particularly eager to floor Ali with his notorious left hook. During the second round, Ali got a straight into Frazier’s face which left him ‘wobbling’ and shaking; he retreated back to the ropes. Frazier made a comeback in the middle of the fight, snapping Ali’s head in the seventh round and pushing him to the rope and edge of the ring. The final four rounds saw intense shifts in tactics by the two men. Ali however won the match with all judges unanimously agreeing he had won with Judges Gordon (8-4), Castellano (7-4-1) and ref Perez (6-5-1). You can watch the match here at-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maA4QACDXOY

The next fight against George Foreman however was a real shocker. Foreman held the Heavyweight title after defeating Frazier. The fight called ‘The rumble in the Jungle’, hosted in what is now known as the Democratic republic of the Congo, was considered one of the greatest sporting events of the 20th century, certainly the greatest boxing matches of all time. Foreman had defeated and knocked down both Norton and Frazier, who had defeated Ali in previous matches. What’s more, Foreman was 8 years younger than the ageing Ali.

The fight began with Ali taking the offensive against Foreman. Ali took a close range attack mentality which ironically was more dangerous for him. Foreman was known to be dangerous up close and his punches were lethal. Whilst Frazier had a brutal left hook, all of Foreman’s punches and jabs, crosses, and straights and hook you name it, they were deadly. Ali however made use of a move called a ‘right hand lead punch’ which means you strike your opponent without preparing your left hand for a combo move. This would disorientate Foreman but it didn’t hurt him enough to truly do enough damage. Foreman was able to get a few punches in the first round and played a trapping tactic where he would corner Ali and ensure that he couldn’t escape the ropes, thereby leaving him vulnerable.

In the second round, Ali started using a made up strategy he supposedly invented called ‘rope a dope’ whereby he would lean on the ropes and defend himself letting Foreman attack him. This in turn would force Foreman to use his energy up whilst attacking him but would leave Ali relatively unharmed and safe. Ali took nearly every chance he could take to hit foreman and very soon, Foreman’s face was very swollen.

After several rounds of rope a doping, Foreman was exhausted. He face was swollen and he was staggering. Ali had damaged his face with a combination of hard, fast crosses and jabs. Whilst Foreman was able to give off the impression he was dominating, in reality he was just tiring himself out. Ali had been taunting him all night and trying to piss him off. It worked. Ali had said ‘they told me you could punch George, as hard as Joe Louis’. At one point, Foreman delivered a body blow and Ali responded, ‘is that all you got?’ Ali dominated after that.

By the eighth round, Foreman was no longer an effective fighter. His punches and defence were useless. He had thrown so many wild shots earlier had caused such fatigue. Ali got several right hooks when Foreman tried to jab. This was followed by a 5 punch combination ending in a left hook which knocked down Foreman. Despite getting up, the ref counted Foreman out and Ali won the Heavyweight championship title of the world again.

Ali’s performance during the fight changed the view many had of the ageing fighter. He wasn’t this overconfident Islamic black guy from the Southern states but a smart and tactical boxer who knew his strengths and weaknesses and played with tactics that would ensure any vulnerability he did have was minimised. You can watch the entire match here at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55AasOJZzDE

The next three and a half years were a series of continuous and consecutive wins for Mr Ali. He fought Chuck Wepner, Ron Lyle and Joe Bugner. However against Wepner, Ali toyed with the man for the 8 rounds. However during the ninth, Wepner stepped on Ali’s foot and hit him in the ribs, knocking him down. Ali was knocked down in the 9th round. Ali claimed he tripped, as you always do. However in the 15th round, Ali had battered and destroyed Wepner and his face showed it. The Bayonne Bleeder fell into the ropes and the Ref ended the bout with a TKO for Ali.

Regarding Lyle’s fight, Ron was more aggressive whilst Ali conserved his energy and covered up thereby allowing Lyle to win many points. However, Lyle knew that Ali would use his rope a dope ploy and didn’t play along. The fight was close and Lyle was winning by the 11th round. Ali then hit Lyle with a right hook and a flurry of punches giving him many points. The ref ended the match for fear of Lyle’s health after seeing he was no longer defending himself.

You can watch the three respective matches here at

Chuck Wepner-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKJCzJ3N6ro

Ron Lyle-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMQwT7maULE

Joe Bugner-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwIE0sk7KwA

His next fight against his long-time rival Frazier was dubbed Thrilla in Manilla, in Jakarta Indonesia. Whilst Ali was aggressive in the first rounds, he soon adopted the rope a dope strategy and took punishment from Frazier. In the 12th round, Frazier was exhausted and Ali scored several punches that closed Frazier’s left eye and cut his right one. Ali dominated the next few rounds due to a visually impaired Frazier. However by the end of the 14th round, both men were tired yet still standing. The fight was stopped when Frazier’s trainer stopped Frazier from entering the 15th round, and Ali won with a TKO, but he was so tired to celebrate whilst slumped in his chair. Ali recalled the fight being ‘closest thing to dying’ and if he wanted a videotape, he retorted ‘why would I want to go see Hell’?

After the bout, Ali began to decline. He fought Coopman with a knockout in the 5th round, Jimmy Young with a point based win and the final TKO of his career against Richard Dunn in the fifth round in 1976. For the next two years, he won by unanimous based wins against Norton, Evangelista and Shavers. However there was a publicity stunt he participated in against Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTZY9cQsOSM, suffering bruises in his legs, two blood clots and an infection in his legs. After the fight with Norton, he took a brief retirement from boxing after converting to Sunni Islam and leaving the Nation of Islam.

He struggled in his fight against Shaver who dominated Ali with a several punches to the head. However his doctor, Freddie Pacheco told Ali to retire. Ali’s kidneys were falling apart and after no response from Ali’s trainer, Ali’s wife and Ali himself, he resigned.

The ultimate sign of Ali’s decline was his next fight against Leon Spinks. He lost against the newcomer to the professional world of boxing, having only fought 7 fights in his professional career. Ali was out of shape by the opening bell and had done very little sparring for preparation. He lost the title of heavyweight champion, though he won it again in a rematch later in 1978.

Ali announced his retirement shortly thereafter but he did come back to fight Larry Holmes in order to win the Heavyweight championship title again. However he didn’t want to fight for glory, but money. In fact, many claimed that Larry was not too keen to fight him, as he knew that Ali was a shell of his former self. The fight was set in Las Vegas in October of 1980 and Holmes dominated Ali. Many famous writers and viewers were horrified at the fight. Stallone called it ‘watching an autopsy on a man who’s still alive’ and journalist Giachetti called it ‘the worst sports event I ever covered. You can watch the horror here at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQB6I3d_pLk

Ali had lost the fight, and many attribute this to him developing Parkinson’s. He fought one last time against Trevor Berbick, who lost in a ten round bout- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8IYKsTTjtI

After this, it became clear that Ali was suffering from a common disease to boxers called Parkinson Syndrome. He retired after his fight with Berbick and indeed, it could be said that his career ended rather tragically. Not with glory or honour, but like the Romans, fell and declined into a state of pity and despair. It’s a shame, but what must come up must come down and unfortunately, Ali plummeted.

Danny O’Donnell

Note: Please click if you want to read the first part.

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