MUHAMMAD ALI has died at the age of 74 after a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s.
The man dubbed ‘The Greatest’ had some unforgettable bouts in the ring – and here we pick out five of his greatest.
1. Ali third-round KO v Cleveland Williams, Houston 1966
Ali was at his devastating best against one of the hardest hitters in the sport’s history. Bouncing around the ring on the balls of his feet he married relentless and blinding speed with an unerring accuracy on his left jab.
Williams barely managed to land a punch in anger. Ali floored his opponent three times towards the end of round two and only the bell’s intervention prolonged the fight into the first minute of the third, when Williams crumpled to the canvas again.
It was an amazing performance – seven minutes showcasing boxing as close to perfect as it is ever likely to get.
2. Ali 14th-round technical KO v Joe Frazier, Manila 1975
Ali triumphed in the pair’s rubber match, the sheer brutality of which eclipsed even those two awesome meetings which had gone before.
Ali called it “the closest thing to death”. Frazier stormed forward and swamped Ali with hooks, sustaining tremendous punishment in the process. Frazier’s trainer Eddie Futch pulled his man out at the end of the 14th round. Ali, ahead on the cards, was on the verge of quitting too.
3. Ali eighth-round KO v George Foreman, Kinshasa 1974
The Rumble in the Jungle – and the extraordinary circumstances called for Ali’s most extraordinary tactics.
To the disbelief of all observers Ali opted to play “rope-a-dope” with the fearsome Foreman, lolling back on the ropes and inviting punishment. Foreman punched himself out and Ali pounced, a left and right to Foreman’s head dropping the champion and winning Ali the title back.
4. Ali seventh-round KO v Sonny Liston, Miami 1964
The brooding, menacing Liston was supposed to put the loudmouth from Louisville in his place. Cassius Clay, as Ali was known then, was pronounced “scared to death” by a physician before the fight.
All the experts tipped a Liston walkover. Then Clay went out and toyed with Liston. He made the baddest man on the planet look flat-footed, fat and old.
Liston retired on his stool at the end of the seventh and Clay – who announced his conversion to Islam after the fight – was world heavyweight champion.
5. Ali on points v Leon Spinks, New Orleans 1978
Spinks had shocked Ali seven months earlier to claim the title but for the rematch Ali was in better shape and the upstart new champion was ravaged by personal problems.
Ali moved better second time around and negated Spinks’ strengths to gain a clear points win and become world heavyweight champion for the third time at the age of 36.