The man who would become a polorizing figure in the 1960s and the most recognized sports figure in the world was born in Louisville, Kentucky 70 years ago.
In honor of the 70th birthday of one of the great sports personalities of the 20th Century, Sports Then and Now has selected some YouTube moments to remember the remarkable career of the self-proclaimed “Greatest of All-Time.”
Born in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17, 1942 with the name Cassius Marcellus Clay, Muhammad Ali emerged on the boxing scene in 1960 when he won Light Heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Olympics.
He defeated Sonny Liston to win the Heavyweight Title on February 25, 1964 and held it for more than three years with nine title defenses before he was stripped of the title after refusing induction into the U.S. Army.
Ali returned to the ring in 1970 and claimed the WBA and/or WBC Heavyweight Championship two more times during his career. Overall, he went 56-5 in his career, including 22 wins where he either won or regained the WBA and/or WBC Heavyweight title.
Below are some videos featuring the greatness of Muhammad Ali:
Joe Frazier defeated Muhammad Ali in the "Fight of the Century" in 1971.
The boxing world lost one of its greatest champions Monday night with the death of former Heavyweight Champion Smokin’ Joe Frazier at the age of 67 following a brief battle with cancer.
Though he is probably best known for losses in the ring to Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, Frazier did defeat Ali in the “Fight of the Century” and was a key figure in what could be considered the greatest era in modern boxing history.
In the 1970s, being the Heavyweight Champion of the World was as important a title as any in sports. From humble beginning, Frazier went on to proudly hold the undisputed title for nearly three years.
Born and raised in Beaufort, South Carolina, Frazier moved to New York in 1959 and soon became one of the top amateur fighters in the Northeast. He won the Middle Atlantic Golden Gloves heavyweight championship three straight years from 1962-64 and was the only American boxer to win a gold medal at the 1964 Olympics.
When Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight crown in 1967, Frazier was among several boxers who stepped into the mix. Read the rest of this entry →
With sport of all kinds having made the transition from amateur to professional status, it is always worth remembering that one unique sportsmen who added unforgettable memories, great depth of character and unadulterated self belief, over a professional boxing career that spanned 21 years . His name of course is Muhammad Ali.
Without any doubt whatsoever, Muhammad Ali became the most famous sportsmen of all time. He was the first man to win the World Heavyweight Boxing champion three times, with two of those titles coming after he was stripped of his boxing license in his prime for 3½ years for refusing to fight in Vietnam.
His antics before and after fights were often a joy to behold, his self promotions, his poetry, his philosophy and his humour were aspects never associated with sportsmen of any kind until he arrived on the scene.
Add these aspects to a boxing style that was graceful, very fast in his early days, intelligent in his later days and ruthless on any given day, Ali established himself quickly as a major box office hero and quite simply was never out of the news. In his absolute heyday, he was unquestionably the most famous man in the world, even more famous than John Lennon, the man who claimed that the Beatles were more famous than Jesus.
Ali was known on all five major continents, fighting in four of them, two of which the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in Zaire against the unbeaten knock out specialist George Foreman in 1974 and the final bout in the Ali/Joe Frazier trilogy, known as the ‘Thriller in Manila’ in 1976 both broke world television viewing records. Ali of course won both of those fights with stoppages which gave him hero status throughout Africa and the Far East and also confirmed him in the eyes of many as the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time. Read the rest of this entry →
Max Schmeling and Joe Louis met in two historic boxing matches in the 1930s.
It is hard now more than 70 years later to fully appreciate the social and global significance of two boxing matches in June of 1936 and 1938 between a black man from Detroit, Michigan and a white man from Germany. However, at the time, Joe Louis and Max Schmeling were prominent figures on the global stage and represented very polarizing situations within the social consciousness of the day.
When they met for the first time 75 years ago on June 19, 1936, Joe Louis was the 22-year-old Louis was 27-0 and considered the number one contender for the Heavyweight Championship. At 30-years-old, Schmeling, a former Heavyweight Champion was thought to be on the downside of his career and given little chance to defeat the powerful Louis.
However, Schmeling claimed before the match that he had noticed a flaw in Louis’ style specifically in how he dropped his guard after throwing a punch. Sure enough, Schmeling stayed close and in the 12th round knocked out Louis.
The victory made Schmeling a hero in Hitler’s Germany of the mid-1930s while the loss was felt hard by blacks in America who had seen Louis as more than just a good fighter, but as a champion for the cause of black Americans at a time when there were very few black heroes. Schmeling’s victory was touted by Nazi officials as proof of their doctrine of Aryan superiority.
Frazier knocked Ali down for only the third time in his career in the final round of their first meeting.
Considering that the sport of boxing is known for using hype to try and turn the most mundane match into a “must see moment”, you might question the validity of a fight dubbed the “Fight of the Century.” However, when undefeated heavyweights Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali met in the ring for the first time at Madison Square Garden 40 years ago today, on March 8, 1971, there was little question that this was a special night and an important moment in the history of boxing.
Perhaps not since the second Louis-Schmeling fight more than 30 years earlier had a heavyweight fight been as anticipated.
The fight matched the controversial Ali, who had been stripped of the Heavyweight Title after refusing induction into the military, against the man who had ultimately taken his place as the Heavyweight Champion.
The 29-year-old Ali entered the fight with a career record of 31-0 (25 knockouts), including two victories in tune-ups since being reinstated after a three and a half year layoff from the sport.
The 27-year-old Frazier was in his prime with a 26-0 record, including 23 wins by knockout.
This battle of titans brought out many of the stars of the day, including Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster, Dustin Hoffman, Diana Ross and Woody Allen. Just to ensure they were close to the action, Sinatra served as a photographer for Life magazine and Lancaster served as a “color commentator” on the television broadcast. Read the rest of this entry →
It was quite a journey for Rocky Balboa from a Philadelphia meat locker to the Boxing Hall of Fame.
Since the day he first burst onto the boxing scene with his improbable performance against Apollo Creed on January 1, 1976, it was probably inevitable that one day Rocky Balboa would take his rightful place as a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Of course the only trouble with that hypothesis is the reality that Rocky Balboa was a fictional character created by actor Sylvester Stallone and not actually a real-life boxing icon.
So, instead of actually inducting Balboa, the Boxing Hall of Fame has done the next best thing and bestowed that honor on Stallone, who not only created the character, but then played Balboa in six installments of one of the greatest sports movie franchises in history.
Because all of the Rocky movies have now been on television so many times that even casual Rocky fans can recite most of the lines and the story line has been hijacked in countless other movies, it is easy to forget the initial impact of this Cinderella story.
When Sylvester Stallone wrote and starred in the original Rocky in 1976 he was not the internationally recognized action star he has become over the last 35 years.
Rocky was filmed on a budget of $1 million and shot in 28 days. But this dark-horse movie immediately struck a cord with the American public and made over $225 million (a huge box office gross for 1976).
The film was so well thought of that it received 10 Oscar nominations and won three statues, including best picture.
History now tells us that the studio originally looked at such big-time stars as Robert Redford, James Caan and Burt Reynolds for the title role. I contend that had they decided to cast an already established actor the movie would never have reached the iconic level it enjoys today. Read the rest of this entry →