Each month we look at Muhammad Ali’s triumphs and tribulations in that particular month. This time we examine October, a month where he fought legendary battles like The Thrilla in Manila, The Rumble in the Jungle … and the sad Last Hurrah.
1 October 1975 – Joe Frazier, Araneta Coliseum, Quezon City
Result: Ali KO14
In the culmination of their legendary rivalry, their trilogy, Muhammad Ali defeated Joe Frazier in one of the most enthralling, grueling battles in boxing history, one of the greatest fights of all-time. “A level of boxing violence seldom seen,” wrote The New York Times. Ali attacked his rival early, but ‘Smokin’ Joe’ took the momentum in the fifth round and pounded Ali for several rounds. Ali rebound in the 12th and both warriors were exhausted by the end of 14 rounds, and Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch, would not let his boxer come out for the 15th. Ali raised his arms in victory, then collapsed, saying later: “It was like death. Closest thing to dyin’ that I know of.”
2 October 1980 – Larry Holmes, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas
Result: Holmes TKO10
Muhammad Ali came out of retirement in 1979 and tried to capture the WBC Heavyweight title for the unprecedented fourth time, and in 1980, a faded version of The Greatest had his chance against former sparring partner, and champ in his own right, Larry Holmes. There were no knockdowns, but Holmes dominated the ‘The Last Hurrah’ and was given every round by all three judges. Holmes had Ali beaten like a heavy bag for a full 30 minutes before Ali’s trainer Angelo Dundee stopped the fight after the 10th round – the only TKO defeat in Ali’s career.
7 October 1961 – Alex Miteff, Freedom Hall, Louisville
Result: Clay KO6
Miteff was a promising Argentinian heavyweight contender known for his body attacks, but he was no match for ‘The Louisville Lip’, Cassius Clay, who would knock him out in the 6th round. Both Clay and Miteff featured in the 1962 film ‘Requiem for a Heavyweight’.
20 October, 1973 – Rudi Lubbers, Bung Karno Stadium, Jakarta, Indonesia
Result: Ali UD
Ali dominated the tune-up fight for a rematch with Joe Frazier and easily won the bout through a unanimous decision against Lubbers. Ali hit the Dutch champion often, but couldn’t knock him off his feet.
Ali was interviewed mid-fight by British TV journalist Reg Gutteridge – something that is rarely seen in the sport. They later became friends and when Reg was ill in a London hospital during the 1980s, he said one day he woke up to find Ali in praying at his bedside.
26 October 1970 – Jerry Quarry, City Auditorium, Atlanta
Result: Ali TKO3
After three and a half years out of boxing, because of his refusal to be inducted into the Army, Ali made his comeback in Atlanta against top-ranked Jerry Quarry. Ali won on a third-round technical knockout to start the ball rolling to reclaiming the heavyweight title which eventually would happen four years at a certain boxing event in Kinshasa, Zaire. Ali and Quarry fought again in 1972 with Ali winning through TKO in the 7th.
29 October 1960 – Tunney Hunsaker, Freedom Hall, Louisville
Result: Clay UD
The pro-debut of the 1960 Olympic Light heavyweight boxing champion.
18-year-old Cassius Clay. Clay arrived at Louisville’s Freedom Hall in a brand-new pink Cadillac, and he won in style as well with a flashing unanimous six-round points win over Hunsaker who also served as a police chief in Fayetteville, West Virginia. “Clay was as fast as lightning … I tried every trick I knew to throw at him off balance but he was just too good,” said the boxing policeman.
30 October, 1974 – George Foreman, Stade du 20 Mai, Kinshasa, Zaire
Result: Ali KO8
What a fight to conclude Ali’s ‘October Fist’: ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’.The fight against heavyweight champ George Foreman was one of Ali’s greatest moments. Ali leaned on the ropes and let Foreman punch himself out, which he did by the end of Round 7. Writer George Plimpton described Ali’s rope-a-dope stance as “a man leaning out his window trying to see something on his roof.” And it worked. In Round 8, Ali dropped Foreman with a pair of combinations, the final right hand sending the exhausted champion to the deck. Foreman didn’t get up in time, and Ali was again world champion. ‘Big George’ Foreman famously regained a share of the heavyweight title in 1994, at age 45.
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)