Every month we look at Muhammad Ali’s triumphs and tribulations in that particular month. This time we examine June, a successful month for The Greatest with some spectacular events on the road.
Four of Muhammad Ali’s 61 fights took place in the month of June, with the GOAT recording four wins, but he also competed in a rather unusual crossover bout which ended as a draw.
Muhammad Ali fights in June:
18 June 1963 – Henry Cooper (Wembley Stadium, London, UK)
This fight was an all-action drama. The fight before Cassius Clay fought Sonny Liston to become Heavyweight Champion of the world and shout out those famous words: “I shook up the world! I must be ‘The Greatest!”
But just one fight before that historic moment, he was in trouble against a top British fighter, Henry Cooper, a British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion with a powerful left hook. Cooper entered the ring as an underdog and was outweighed by 21 pounds by Cassius Clay, but there were moments where history’s cause and effect could have changed. This tough battle was stopped in the 5th round, and Clay declared the winner, but only after getting a bloody nose in the first round and being knocked down in the fourth – by that powerful left hook.
Clay’s fifth-round KO prediction came true. He had opened a bad gash over Cooper’s left eye by the third round and in the fifth in was opened further with the referee stepping in to stop the bout.
Clay-Cooper is remembered for many things, but especially two things stick out. Firstly it is remembered for being one of the four fights in which Muhammad Ali was officially knocked down in the ring by his opponent. Secondly, Clay, who was clearly shaken up by the knockdown in the fourth and disoriented for a few seconds, for once had to eat his own words. He entered with a king’s crown but left more humble.
In the buildup to the fight, Clay called Cooper a bum. After the fight: ”Cooper’s not a bum anymore. I underestimated him. He’s the toughest fighter I ever met and the first to really drop me. He’s a real fighter.” On the punch in round four: “That punch was felt by my ancestors in Africa.”
35,000 fans witnessed the open-air fight at Wembley in London, and Ali and Cooper did it again three years later in England’s capital at Arsenal Football Stadium with 46,000 watching. But the outcome was almost the same. Ali-Cooper II was stopped in the sixth round due to a cut over Cooper’s eye.
Result: Ali TKO5
26 June 1976 – Antonio Inoki (Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan)
It was a fight, kind of, and it was definitely in June. So we include this fight on a curious note. Ali met Japanese professional wrestler Antonio Inoki, and the crossover-fight was fought under special rules. The ‘Bout of the Century’ was a bizarre one which saw Inoki on his back the majority of the time kicking Ali’s legs.
26 June 1961 – Duke Sabedong (Convention Center, Las Vegas, USA)
Cassius Clay’s 7th pro fight.
Result: The bout went the full distance with Clay winning comfortably on points.
27 June 1972 – Jerry Quarry (Convention Center, Las Vegas, USA)
Ali-Quarry II with the NABF Heavy Title at stake. By the fifth round, Ali was entertaining the crowd, telling the ringside media, “This is an easy way to make a living!”
Result: Ali won via TKO in the 7th.
30 June 1975 – Joe Bugner (Merdeka Stadium, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Ali-Bugner II, under humid conditions in an open-air fight. The fight before the Thrilla in Manila.
Result: Ali won via unanimous decision.