Each month we look at Muhammad Ali’s triumphs and tribulations in that particular month. This time we examine August, a month with only one fight for The Greatest – a trip to London to face the ‘Blackpool Rock’ Brian London.
6 August 1966 – Brian London, Earls Court Arena, London
Result: Ali KO3
Muhammad Ali fought five times in 1966, his busiest year as a champ, and one of his most dominant. In 1966 war was raging in Vietnam and Ali was making headlines for his stance against the war and his refusal to be drafted. But inside the roped square Ali made headlines too.
Except for an extremely tough fight with George Chuvalo over 15 rounds (for the first time in his career), Ali stopped all of his opponents in 1966. The Greatest was at his greatest.
In August it was England’s Brian London’s turn to collide with Ali’s formidable form – for the WBC, WBA and The Ring World Heavyweight titles at Earls Court Arena in London.
Brian London, known as the ‘Blackpool Rock’, was more porous than the name would suggest. His crowning moment was way back in 1958 when he won the British and Commonwealth Heavyweight titles from Joe Erskine. London had lost three out of three times to his rival Henry Cooper and 11 courageous rounds against Floyd Patterson was his career-best performance at his first shot at the title seven years earlier than the night at Earls Court.
On August 25, 1966, Ali was 24, 24-0, and at the height of his powers. London was 32 with 13 losses on his record and thus a massive underdog against the world’s best heavyweight. It was a mismatch both on paper and canvas. Ali simply toyed with London in the first two rounds before knocking him out in the third after 11 unanswered punches in 3 seconds!
In retirement four years later, London became a successful nightclub owner in Blackpool where he still lives today at the age of 86. When the local paper The Gazette asked London for a comment on Ali’s death aged 74 in June 2016 he said:
“It is terrible news. It’s a very, very sad day. I didn’t see it on TV on Saturday morning – someone told me in the street.
“I couldn’t believe it because, apart from the Parkinson’s, I thought he was still fit. I didn’t know he had been ill and in hospital.
“Ali was the best fighter I ever fought. That night in 1966 was a bad fight for me, that’s all I can say.
“He was a heavyweight, yet he boxed like a middleweight. He was tremendous. He was great.”
In the immediate aftermath of their fight in 1966, London described Ali as being: “Big, fast and he could punch, whereas I was smaller, fatter and couldn’t punch. He stopped me in three rounds and that was it, I don’t think I hit him.”
London admitted (and regretted) he sold himself short: “It was good money and I got well paid for it – that’s all I fought for. Every fight I ever had I always had a go, but with Muhammad Ali, I thought ‘don’t get hurt Brian’, and I, therefore, didn’t try, which was wrong, totally wrong.”
Asked whether he wanted a rematch with Ali, London said: “Only if he ties a 56-pound weight to each leg.”
Pre-fight record: 35-13
Height: 6 ft 0 in (183 cm)
Weight: 201.5 lb (91 kg)
Pre-fight record: 24-0
Height: 6 ft 3 in (191 cm)
Weight: 209.5 lb (95 kg)
The Muhammad Ali Trophy:
The Muhammad Ali Trophy is also known as the Greatest Prize in Boxing and it is being awarded to the winner of each weight class of the World Boxing Super Series. Ali gave his blessings to the WBSS and agreed to give his name to its prize, and the trophy was created by the late world-renowned artist Silvio Gazzaniga who also designed the iconic FIFA World Cup Trophy.
Ali Trophy winners:
Season I: Aleksandr Usyk (Cruiserweight), Callum Smith (Super-Middleweight)
Season II: Josh Taylor (Super-Lightweight), Naoya Inoue (Bantamweight)