Muhammad Ali shocked the world to win the heavyweight world title in 1964. From then on he retained the belt in sweet win after sweet win, predicting the rounds and beating every man with ease.
While other heavyweights have won as underdogs and kept their title, no fighter had ever delivered the glitz, the brilliance and the words like Ali. He was a one-man revolution and that means he made enemies faster than any boy-fighter could handle.
From the controversial and widely anticipated Cassius Clay vs Sonny Liston fight to the Rumble in the Jungle, deemed “arguably the greatest sporting event of the 20th century”, Ali was involved in some of the most historic boxing matches of his time.
Joe Frazier, Manila, Philippines, 1 October 1975
The Thrilla in Manila. World heavyweight title. The third and final instalment in the Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier trilogy and by far the most brutal. Frazier was pulled out at the end of the 14th round. “The fight was the closest thing to death,” Ali said at the end. He was right.
Sonny Liston, Miami Beach, US, 25 February 1964
Ali was Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston was the heavyweight champion of the world, the betting favourite and expected to kill Clay. There was genuine fear that a death would occur. Clay won when Liston refused to come out for round seven. “What are you gonna say now, huh?” Ali to reporters after the fight.
Joe Frazier, New York, US, 8 March 1971
The Fight of the Century. Ali had been in exile, Joe Frazier had become champion and the two unbeaten fighters met at Madison Square Garden in New York over 15 torrid rounds. Ali lost a tight decision, but it was a stunning performance. “Frazier was harder for me than Liston or Foreman,” Ali said long after the fight.