Champ remains amazingly calm and cool despite the intense tension only minutes before the Earnie Shavers fight as Angelo Dundee tapes his hands. Ali loved a wild locker room before the fights, filled with visiting celebrities, TV cameras and Muhammad Ali antics that commanded the spotlight of world attention. But right before the fight, Champ told me what he was thinking when he focused on his purpose in the ring.
" I go into a dark room, I can hear the crowd in the arena. I put all my trainers out, I cut the lights out...and I think about why I have to win this fight tonight, who's all depending on me. The poor people, the little people, the minority groups that I speak for. We're in a helluva country where if you don't have no money, no fame...it's who in the hell is that out there talking? So I use this money, I use this fame, I use the big movies, TV shows, endorsements, cartoons...not for the money but for the work I do for God."- Muhammad Ali
In one of the best rounds of his career, Muhammad Ali showed courageous heart and skill to win the decision with a brilliant finish in the 15th round over Earnie Shavers. The fight was close to even in rounds when a determined Ali "put a whomping on him" to decide the close fight.
" I'll beat him so bad...he'll need a shoehorn to put his hat on."- Muhammad Ali
Cassius Clay as he was then called, made a bold reputation for a young fighter by predicting the rounds he chose to knock his opponents out with astounding accuracy.
"Ode to Sonny Liston-For those of you who won't be able to see the Sonny Liston fight...here is the 8th round exactly as it will happen.
Clay comes out to meet Liston
Liston starts to retreat
If Liston goes back any further
He'll end up in a ring side seat
Clay swings with his left
Clay swings with his right
Looks like young Cassius will carry the fight
Liston keeps backing up but there's not enough room
It's a matter of time til Clay lowers the boom
Now Liston disappears from view
The crowd is getting frantic
But our radar stations have picked him up
He is somewhere over the Atlantic
Liston is still rising and the ref has found
He can't start counting til Sonny comes down
Who would have thought when they came to the fight
They'd witness the launching of a human satellite
Yes the crowd didn't dream when they put down their money
That they would see a full eclipse of the Sonny."
The most famous corner in boxing history headed by Angelo Dundee. Here cornerman Wali "Blood" Muhammad and Ali's guru and cornerman, Drew "Bundini" Brown go to work on the Champ. This corner earned Muhammad Ali 56 wins, 37 by knockout and 5 losses in some of the greatest heavyweight fights in history with Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, Ken Norton and George Foreman.
"Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even."- Muhammad Ali
The Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks fight was considered to be such a mismatch that only one Las Vegas betting house would take the risky wager. Most believed that with only 7 professional fights, the inexperienced Spinks would be no match for the legendary Ali with a brilliant record of 55 wins with only 2 losses. This would be a telling battle between raw, courageous youth and the favored skillful professional. Spinks was bringing the fight to Ali and seemed to have a slight edge in the rounds. Ali was digging deep in his fight knowledge to fend off the relentless Spinks who kept coming, showing the 12 year youth advantage. Ali showed flashes of greatness in the middle rounds...the brilliant fighters mind was willing but at age 36 the body was not able. Ali had underestimated the tenacious Spinks and Leon Spinks won a split decision and the Heavyweight Championship from his childhood idol. Before the night was over, they would agree to a rematch.
Seven months after Muhammad Ali had lost the Heavyweight Championship to Leon Spinks, the rematch was held at the Superdome in New Orleans. As Ali strode back to his corner at the end of the last round, he raised his arms to the crowd's thunderous roar, awaiting the judges' decision. All the road work, the hundreds of sit-ups , the heavy bag and the endless rounds of sparring were in his dream of redemption to recapture the title.
The judges awarded 4 rounds to Leon Spinks and Muhammad Ali won the Heavyweight Championship of the World for an unprecedented third time. This feat stands today, having never been accomplished before or since. Pat Patterson shot his hand high into the historic night as the Champ was raised on shoulders but there was a sadness in his eyes, as he kissed and waved what might be the end of his legendary career.
Champ enjoyed engaging in the spontaneous moments when least expected but always appreciated as the Peoples Champion. No matter where he went, here on the streets of Detroit, he hopped out of the limo and created memories for a lifetime by street sparring with Muhammad Ali.
80,000 people rose to their feet and wildly applauded Muhammad Ali when he entered the Columbia World Cup Soccer Stadium. It was his first visit to South America and the response and admiration for Ali was overwhelming.
"I draw more people...look outside, look at the excitement. I do the same in Cairo, Egypt, same thing in Manila, same thing in Morocco, same thing in Saudi Arabia, same thing in Trinidad. Every state in America; London, England; Paris, France; Pakistan; India. The whole world recognizes me as "The Greatest" ...not fighter but athlete. I'm pretty, no scratches. Look at me..."The Greatest of All Time." After me, tell them there will not come another. I am the last of "The Greatest."- Muhammad Ali
Las Vegas was a hotspot for Muhammad Ali fights and his presence at fights drew celebrities and world press attention. Here, Ali works the crowd, bringing his game to a Ken Norton fight. Ali is with the legendary Middleweight Champion, Sugar Ray Robinson (left). Ali called him, "the king, the master, my idol." He is regarded as " pound for pound the best boxer of all time." Between them is Sugar Ray Leonard, the first boxer to win titles in five different weight classes, a record that stands today.
Each day at The Deer Lake Boxing Camp, Muhammad would spend hours visiting fans and signing autographs for hundreds of visitors. He loved posing for photos with admirers...it was his way of taking a break in between training sessions. The camp maintained an open-door policy and everyone was welcome.
Copyright © 2018 Michael Gaffney Collection of Muhammad Ali - All Rights Reserved. All copying of images is strictly forbidden with full copyright protection and prosecution of the Copyright Act of 1978 for any and all violations in compliance with The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
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