Who is the Greatest...Boxer?
From the time that I was a little kid, I've always been intrigued by this man. I've read multiple books on his life, seen the movie, seen documentaries, and done a ton of research. Let's just say that this is the first blog in this series that I could probably do without using knowledge other than what is in my head.
I love Muhammad Ali, which obviously makes me biased, and I don't care who knows. Ali won the heavyweight title 3 times, and he ended his career with 56 wins (37 KOs) and just 5 losses. He also won the gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
He is best known for his unique fighting style, which the man himself referred to as "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." He was know for his amazing footwork (float like a butterfly), and incredible hand speed (sting like a bee).
One fight, however, made this man famous. When a fresh, young, 22-year-old Cassius Clay took on the heavyweight champion Sonny Liston, he was listed as a huge 7-1 underdog. But in the fight, Cassius defeated Liston, one of the meanest men ever, and a star was born. He was a pretty sonofab*tch, and he says so in the video below.
After the fight, Clay became bigger than life, and eventually announced that he was a member of the Nation of Islam. Clay then decided to change his name to Muhammad Ali, because he was actually named after a white abolitionist from the 19th Century. Most announcers refused to call the champ by his adopted name, but Howard Cosell and most British reporters did.
Eventually, Ali was drafted into the military to fight in the Vietnam War. Because he disagreed with the war like most Americans, Ali refused to step forward when his name was called. He was eventually found guilty in a court, but the case went to the Supreme Court and Ali was allowed to fight again in 1970.
In 1971, Ali fought Joe Frazier for the first time in Madison Square Gardent in a fight billed as the "Fight of the Century." Joe Frazier retained his title by unanimous decision, handing Ali his first professional loss. Another famous Ali bout was 1974's "Rumble in the Jungle," he upset George Foreman in Zaire. This is also the fight were a new style from Ali, the "Rope-A-Dope" was born. In the last big fight of his career, Ali defeated Joe Frazier to retain his title.
Ali's legacy is one of the greatest of any athlete. He is only one of three boxers to be named SI's Sportsman of the Year, and he has been inducted into 8 different Halls of Fame. Quite simply, he's great.
Others might say:
2. "Sugar" Ray Robinson. He went 175-19-6, with 105 KO wins in his career. He was unbeatable at welterweight, but he was less dominant at middleweight which makes him just number two on my list. Muhammad Ali calls him the greatest, and so do Joe Louis and Ray Leonard.
3. Joe Louis. He held the heavyweight title for more years (11+) than anyone, and had 25 title defenses. He's most famous for his two fights against German Max Schmelling, who he lost to and then defeated two years later, becoming an American hero, much like Jesse Owens did in the '38 Olympics.
4. Jack Johnson. Before he became a mellowed out Hawaiian rock star, Jack Johnson was the first black heavyweight champion. He was 77-13-14, and was the early 1900s version of Muhammad Ali.
5. Henry Armstrong. He is the only fighter to hold titles in 3 weight classes simultaneously. The fighter, who had a Native American lineage, was 151-21-9 in his career and defended the welterweight championship more times than any other fighter. He also defeated 15 of the 17 world champions that he faced in his career.
Roberto Duran, Willie Pep, Jack Dempsey, "Sugar" Ray Leonard, Rocky Marciano.
NBA Player - Michael Jordan
NFL Coach - Bill Walsh
CBB Player - Lew Alcindor
CBB Coach - John Wooden