On June 3 of 2016, the greatest, most prolific and feared boxer to ever live passed away at the age of 74 after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. When the debilitating disease eventually got the better of Ali, its name was added to a list of just five others–the five people who have ever, in the history of boxing, got the better of the Louisville Lip.
Watching Ali fight can be a breathtaking and awe-inspiring act. His strikes were measured, calculated, precise, incredibly quick, and of course powerful. Seeing the man who was billed as “The Greatest” makes it hard to imagine him ever losing a fight. Here are the five boxers who have beat Muhammad Ali, and a quick breakdown of the fight.
March 8, 1971
It was billed by promoters as “The Fight of the Century,” the first time that two undefeated fighters had battled it out for the heavyweight title. Both had claims to the heavyweight belt, as Ali had won the title but conceded the belt when he refused to enlist in the Vietnam War. During this time, Frazier had won the heavyweight title.
It was a highly anticipated fight, with prices for seats skyrocketing far past their normal prices. Frazier, with his crowder/swarmer style and constant barrage of attacks was put to the test against the light-on-his-feet, lightning fast Ali.
Ali came out strong, winning the first two rounds 2-1 and 3-0. From there, however, Frazier took over, unleashing powerful blow after powerful blow. The fight lastest all 15 rounds, and went to decision. Frazier walked away the winner, but Ali got his revenge during their second and third matches, both of which Ali walked away a winner.
March 31, 1973
Having retained a perfect record since his loss to Frazier, Ali entered the fight with Ken Norton as a fairly heavy favorite to walk away the victor. However a broken jaw suffered by Ali in the mid to late rounds (exactly when it occurred is disputed) helped give Norton the win by split decision.
Similar to the Ali-Frazier showdown, Ali and Norton squared off twice more after the initial defeat with Ali taking both fights via decision. The final rubber-match, which Ali won unanimously, was highly disputed, as many believe that he won on name alone, not because he fought better than Norton.
February 15, 1978
Leon Spinks shouldn’t have won the fight over Muhammad Ali–in fact many, many people thought that he stood no chance. With a mediocre career record (24-17-3, compared to Ali’s 56-5) Sprinks was a heavy underdog.
Heading into the fight Ali, by this point 36 years old and fast his prime, was simply outclassed and outlasted by Spinks, a younger and more energetic fighter. The end of the fight, which went the distance, awarded Spinks the heavyweight title by split decision. Ali won a rematch about 7 months later, beating Spinks in another contested fight. It would be Ali’s final victory.
October 10, 1980
After Ali won the Spinks rematch he retired not much later, accepting that he was, for the most part, too old and too out of shape to continue to fight. A little over a year after he officially announced his retirement in 1979, Ali came out of retirement to fight Larry Holmes for the heavyweight title once again.
Despite suffering from what seems now to have possibly been the beginnings of Parkinson’s Disease, Ali was cleared by the Mayo Clinic, and promptly dismantled in the ring by Larry Holmes. When Ali didn’t emerge from his corner after the 11th round, he was given his first ever loss via knockout.
December 11, 1981
A month shy of his 40th birthday, Ali gave it one final go in the ring when he faced off against the 28 year old Berbick in what would be the final loss–and final fight–of his storied career. The fight, which went better than his previous one against Holmes, ended with a Berbick victory by decision. Ali acknowledged that he had lost the fight fair and square, attributing his loss to his age and Berbick’s youth and tenacity.
Following the fight, Ali decided to call it quits for good:
“Father Time has caught up with me. I’m finished. I’ve got to face the facts. We all lose sometimes. We all grow old. This is the end.”