Each month we look at Muhammad Ali’s triumphs and tribulations in that particular month. This time we examine December, the month of the last fight of The Greatest and the beginning of a legendary partnership with Angelo Dundee.
7 December 1970 – Oscar Bonavena, Madison Square Garden, New York
Result: Ali TKO15
Ali knocked out Argentina’s Oscar Bonavena in the 15th round to win the vacant NABF heavyweight title at New York’s Madison Square Garden. It was Ali’s first fight at the current ‘The Garden’, and it was his second fight following a three-year layoff after being stripped of his title for refusing to be inducted into the armed forces. And noteworthy, it was the fight before the first Frazier-fight. After a tough, brutal, and action-packed battle, Ali grabbed a microphone and shouted: “I have done what Joe Frazier couldn’t do – knocked out Oscar Bonavena. Now, where is he? I want Joe Frazier.”
And so, one of the great rivalries in the history of sports was born.
11 December 1981 – Trever Berbick, Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre, Nassau
Result: Berbick UD
On this date, Ali laced up the gloves for the final time against Jamaica’s Trever Berwick in The Bahamas. Berbick is the only man in professional boxing history to have fought Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, and Mike Tyson. The venue in Nassau was chosen because no American state would grant Ali a boxing license after his performance in The Last Hurrah’, a one-sided loss 14 months ago against Larry Holmes. Ali was 39, Berwick 27. Again, Ali was a shell of himself. By the sixth round, Ali had tired and started getting hit. By the last round, he was completely exhausted.
”I did good for a 40-year-old,” Ali said after the fight. “He was too strong. I could feel the youth. Age is slipping up on me.”
The morning after he reflected more on the defeat, a unanimous decision on points.
“The one good thing about me losing my last fight is that people will know I tried. When you’re too good like I was, you make people feel bad. I leave the world the lesson of humility.”
His last words to the press were: “It was a great ride wasn’t it, boys?” I took you all over the world. Nobody else could do that.”
Muhammad Ali truly travelled the world in the name of boxing. Ali fought 548 Professional Rounds against 50 different men across a span of 61 fights, 13 countries, four continents, and 21 years.
The USA was the location of 45 of the 61 fights, with the UK hosting 3 and Canada and West Germany 2 each. The other countries were: Switzerland, Ireland, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Zaire, Puerto Rico, and The Bahamas.
26 December, 1971 – Juergen Blin, Hallenstadion, Zurich
Result: ALI KO7
After Muhammad Ali lost to Joe Frazier in March of 1971, Germany’s Juergen Blin was one of the many stepping stones on the comeback trail. Blin was dropped by a right hand in the seventh round. The former butcher was dead meat as he desperately tried to beat the count wobbling on rubber legs. Ali was the first man to stop Blin.
27 December 1960 – Herb Siler, Auditorium, Miami Beach
Result: Clay TKO4
The fight took place soon after Clay had joined the 5th Street Gym in Miami, and it was Clay’s first fight with Angelo Dundee in his corner. Clay won the bout through a technical knockout after the referee stopped the fight in the fourth round. Dundee continued to train Ali in all of his fights until his exile from boxing, and upon Ali’s return to the sport, Dundee was in the corner in almost all of his fights, including famed bouts with fighters such as Jerry Quarry, Oscar Bonavena, Joe Frazier, Floyd Patterson, George Foreman, Ken Norton, and Leon Spinks. Ali and Dundee remained friends their entire lives.
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 created by the late world-renowned artist Silvio Gazzaniga who also designed the iconic FIFA World Cup Trophy.
Ali Trophy winners:
Season II: Josh Taylor (Super-Lightweight), Naoya Inoue (Bantamweight), Mairis Briedis (Cruiserweight)
Season I: Aleksandr Usyk (Cruiserweight), Callum Smith (Super-Middleweight)