Each month we look at Muhammad Ali’s career in that particular month. This time we examine January, a month of a memorable birthday, a multi-talented opponent, and Ali’s revenge in ‘Super Fight II’ – Ali vs Frazier II.
17 January 1961 – Tony Esperti, Auditorium, Miami Beach
Result: Clay TKO3
Up-and-coming Clay celebrated his 19th birthday with a stoppage of ‘Big Tony’ Esperti in the third round of a scheduled eight-round fight.
The referee stopped the fight after Esparti’s left eye had been cut by Clay’s jabs.
It was Ali’s third pro fight and the future looked bright for the 1960 Rom Olympics light heavy champion. It was Esperti’s first fight in six years, and his following years became grim and brutal.
Esperti turned gangster after retiring later the same year with arrests and charges for burglary, assault, extortion, and eventually first-degree murder for gunning down mobster Thomas Altamura in 1967.
24 January 1963 – Charlie Powell, Civic Arena, Pittsburgh
Result: Clay KO3
Clay knocked out Powell at the end of Round 3, again finishing an opponent in the round he had foreseen – during his career Ali correctly predicted the exact round he would stop an opponent 12 times.
Charlie Powell was a multi-sport professional athlete who briefly played pro baseball before joining the NFL when he was just 19 years old – the youngest ever at that time. He played for the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders. Off-season (!), and after he retired, he boxed with bouts against Cassius Clay and Floyd Patterson in a decent 25-11-3 career.
28 January 1974 – Joe Frazier, Madison Square Garden, New York
Result: Ali UD
The ‘Super Fight II’ – a non-title fight – is considered by most fans and experts to be the least significant of the famous Ali-Frazier trilogy. Ali wanted revenge and he got it in a very tactical fight. His strategy to punch and clinch worked to claim the decision after losing ‘The Fight of the Century’ in 1971. Ali made it 2-1 in ‘The Thrilla in Manila’ in 1975 and cemented his legacy as The Greatest.
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)