Muhammad Ali described himself as the greatest of all time, but it wasn’t before long that everyone else started calling him that too. He talked a good game and walked a good game, floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. But what were the fights that made Ali the greatest? We’ve got them covered here, so have a read through the greatest fights of the greatest boxer.
Sonny Liston, 1964
Ali was 22 and still known as Cassius Clay when he won the heavyweight title for the first time by defeating Sonny Liston on February 25th, 1964 in Miami, Florida. The witty challenger taunted and insulted Liston persistently in the lead up to the fight, and although he talked a good game few expected him to back it up. Clay came out strong, using his footwork and speed to take advantage of the slower Liston. After the sixth round, Liston, with an apparent injured shoulder, announced that he could not continue. Clay won the fight by TKO and proclaimed to the world, “I am the greatest!”
Sonny Liston II, 1965
On May 25, 1965, he returned to face Liston in a rematch only this time as Muhammad Ali. It was a first-round knockout win for Ali in one of the most controversial fights in the history of boxing. In the middle of the first round, Liston threw a left jab and Ali responded with a quick right. It’s debated to this day whether the punch was so fast that it knocked Liston out, or that it was a ‘phantom punch’ and Liston took a dive.
Joe Frazier, 1971
Ali suffered his first professional loss in The Fight of the Century, which many point to as a testament of his greatest that he came back even better. The $2.5million for each fighter was the largest payout for any athlete at the time and it didn’t disappoint. Ali got his jaw broke late in the fight but it went to the judge’s cards, with Frazier winning by unanimous decision.
George Foreman, 1974
Ali became the just the second fighter to regain the heavyweight title with this victory over George Foreman. Ali taunted Foreman into tiring himself out with a barrage of punches using the famous ‘rope-a-dope’ technique, then knocked him out in the eighth round.
Joe Frazier III, 1975
The Thrilla in Manila was the third meeting between Ali and Frazier, having split the previous two meetings. Ali again taunted Frazier repeatedly before the fight, causing Smokin’ Joe to train as hard for this as any fight in his career. They traded blows throughout, before Frazier’s coach threw in the towel at the start of the fifteenth round. And the rest is history.