The Louisville Lip

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali is the only three-time Heavyweight Champion.. To use his own words, he “shocked the world” when he defeated Sonny Liston in February of 1964 to win the title for the first time. He then changed his name from Cassius Clay to Cassius X and then to Muhammad Ali.

He won a Gold Medal in the 1960 Olympics in Rome as a light heavyweight. He was a 7-1 underdog when he defeated Liston in their first bout. Ali defeated Liston a second time and years later he fought Joe Frazier three times.Those fights were classics; Frazier won the first one and Ali the next two.

Ali was stripped of his title when he refused induction into the Armed Forces because of his political and religious beliefs. He did not fight for three-and-a-half years but then he returned to the ring and won the title two more times.

Ali also was a great entertainer. He dubbed his fight with George Foreman in Zaire as the “rumble in the jungle.”  He called his third fight with Joe Frazier the “thrilla in Manila.”

I recall listening to the radio broadcast in February of 1964 of the first Liston-Clay fight. Ali (still known as Cassius Clay then) had something in his eyes and couldn’t see during the fifth round. He wanted to quit and his trainer, Angelo Dundee would not let him and in so doing changed the course of history.

Clay’s eyes finally cleared and when Sonny Liston did not answer the bell for the seventh round, there was a new Heavyweight Champion.

It was incredible to see a heavyweight with the quickness that Ali possessed.  Prior to his three and-a-half year exile from boxing he rarely got hit hard. When he returned to the ring, we found out that he had an amazing capacity to take a punch. Unfortunately, he kept fighting into his late 30’s and he paid the price for that.

“Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” was a beautiful way of describing Ali’s style. Ali did not possess a left hook like the one Joe Frazier had; nor did he have a right hand like that of Joe Louis but he was a tremendous boxer who was a very “smart” fighter. I feel that is was those “smarts” that enabled him to defeat Joe Frazier twice.

The sport is not called “fighting.” It is called “boxing.” and Ali may have very well been “the greatest.”

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