Each month we look at Muhammad Ali’s triumphs and tribulations in that particular month. This time we examine July, a successful month for The Greatest comprising a trip to Ireland and three U.S. fights.
19 July 1972 – Alvin Lewis, Croke Park, Dublin
Result: Ali won by TKO11
After losing to Smokin’ Joe Frazier in March 1971, the famous Fight of the Century, Ali went on something of a world tour in his ‘comeback’ phase fighting 13 times in six countries before defeating Frazier in a rematch in January 1974. Dublin, Ireland was part of the tour and long-term sparring partner Alvin Lewis was the opponent in this non-title fight. On arrival, Ali captured the heart of a nation by announcing that he had Irish roots. Ali’s great-grandfather, Abe Grady, was according to research hailing from Ennis but emigrated to the United States in the 1860s. Ali ended the one-sided bout against Lewis in the 11th.
19 July 1996 – Opening Ceremony, Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games
We include this significant and symbolic July date for The Greatest. This day Ali lit the Olympic cauldron during the Opening Ceremony for the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. He also received a replacement gold medal as he had lost the one he won in 1960 in Rome.
20 July 1962 – Alejandro Lavorante, Sports Arena, Los Angeles
Result: Cassius Clay won by KO5
Cassius Clay fought Lavorante in a ten-round fight and won the bout by knocking out the Argentinian in the fifth, just as he predicted. In this fight, Clay showed he could take a punch. Early in the second he and Lavorante traded right-hand haymakers, but Clay proved much stronger and finished the onslaught with two blazing knockdowns in the fifth. It was Clay’s 15th straight triumph as a pro and his 12th knockout – and it was regarded his greatest performance so far.
22 July 1961 – Alonzo Johnson, Freedom Hall, Louisville
Result: Clay won by a unanimous decision
Johnson gave Clay a tough fight – one judge scored it 48-47 for Clay, who was booed by the hometown fans in Louisville for the first time.
26 July 1971 – Jimmy Ellis, Astrodome, Houston
Result: Ali won by TKO12
Ellis was a sparring partner who fought on many undercards of The Greatest. Angelo Dundee was Ali’s trainer, but he was both manager and trainer for Ellis. Dundee chose – with Ali’s blessing – to work with Ellis for the fight. Ali stunned Ellis with a straight right in the fourth round: The right “hurt me so bad I couldn’t really fight my best after that,” said Ellis. “It ruined me.”
Ali in a way treated the rest of the fight as if it were a sparring session, and the referee stopped the fight in the 12th after Ali threw another big right, sending Ellis into the ropes, but he remained on his feet. The vacant NABF Heavy Title was on the line, and this was Ali’s first encounter after the Fight of the Century.
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 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:
2019: Josh Taylor (Super-Lightweight), Nagoya Inoue (Bantamweight)
2018: Aleksandr Usyk (Cruiserweight), Callum Smith (Super Middleweight)