SELECTION: MUHAMMAD ALI
Heavyweight Champion 1964-1970, 1974-1978, 1978-1979
RECORD: 56-5 37 Ko's By: Monte Cox
Cassius Clay was truly a great name for a fighter, but the name Muhammad Ali will always be known as "the Greatest". A young Cassius won an Olympic Gold Medal at 178 lbs. in 1960 to start off the decade. He made a name for himself by accurately predicting the rounds in which his opponent's "will fall". By 1963 he was the number one contender for Sonny Liston's Heavyweight crown. Liston, a murderous slugger, was considered near unbeatable at the time. Cassius was an 8-1 underdog for their Feb. 1964 fight. Shocking the world, the young fighter upset the odds, out boxing Liston, swelling his face and forcing him to quit on his stool. After winning the title he announced his conversion to the Islamic religion and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
Muhammad Ali was the most naturally gifted heavyweight champion in history. His phenomenal speed in his prime never ceases to amaze though who saw him or who have studied him on film. The late Jimmy Jacobs, then the owner of the world's largest fight film collection, once measured Ali's jab by an omegascope. He found that Sugar Ray Robinson's jab took 8.5 frames of film. Ali's took only 6.5!! Faster than the fastest middleweights, Ali's extraordinary hand and foot speed allowed him to outspeed both his opponent's and his mistakes. Ali did everything wrong, holding his hands low and leaning away from punches. However, his uncanny sense of timing, distance and superb reflexes allowed him to avoid his opponent's punches. In his prime he was all but impossible to hit with a solid punch. Ali had the best footwork and lateral movement, as well as one of the finest jabs, in heavyweight history. He threw blazing flurries with precision accuracy. Ali had possibly the best chin in division history, successfully absorbing the bombs of some of history's most devastating hitters such as Liston, Frazier, Foreman, Lyle, and Shavers.
Ali faced the toughest opposition of any heavyweight champion. He defeated 11 of the top 50 heavyweights of all time as rated by the 1998 Holiday issue of the Ring. He made 19 successful defenses, in three reigns as champion, over a span of 14 years. His record in his prime was 29-0 with 23 kayo's, a knockout percentage of 79. He lost 3 1/2 of his prime when he was stripped of his title for draft evasion in 1967. (He eventually won that fight by unanimous decision of the Supreme Court.) We never saw the best of "the Greatest."
After retirement Ali was diagnosed with "Parkinson's syndrome". Despite his handicap he continues to lead a full life and remains an inspiration to millions of people throughout the world.
Honorable Mentions: Nino Benvenuti, Flash Elorde, Emile Griffith, Fighting Harada, Eder Jofre, Carlos Ortiz, Dick Tiger.
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