Each month we look at Muhammad Ali’s triumphs and tribulations in that particular month. This time we examine September, a month where Ali settled the score against Ken Norton and Leon Spinks and sent Floyd Patterson into retirement.
It was also the month Ali fought Earnie Shavers, one of the hardest punchers in boxing history, and traveled to Germany to face tricky Karl Mildenberger. But Ali’s ‘September to Remember’ began with Olympic gold in Rome.
5 September 1960 – Zbigniew Pietrzykowski, Palazzo dello Sport, Rome Olympics
Before he became The Greatest, Cassius Marcellus Clay traveled to the 1960 Rome Games to compete in the light heavyweight division, and despite being only 18, he won all four of his fights easily. In the final, he defeated three-time European champion, Poland’s 1956 bronze medalist Zbigniew Pie-trzykowski to win the gold medal.
10 September 1966 – Karl Mildenberger, Waldstadion/Radrennbahn, Frankfurt
Result: Ali TKO12
Ali was on a European fight tour in 1966 and stressed by a return to the USA to continue his fight against the military draft. Inside the ropes, he had plenty to fight for and against too. In Ali’s three bouts in Europe that year, May through September, The Greatest beat in quick succession Henry Cooper, Brian London, and Karl Mildenberger.
Mildenberger was a skilled and unorthodox southpaw who held the Euro-pean title. The German challenged for the world title in Ali’s sixth defense. The fight was not expected to last long, but Mildenberger, badly cut over the left eye, got up from the canvas three times before the referee stopped the fight in the 12th round.
10 September 1973 – Ken Norton, Forum, Inglewood
Result: Ali SD
Norton won a split decision when he outmaneuvered Ali in their first encounter in 1973 – Ali was treated in hospital for a broken jaw, an injury sustained in the first round of the fight. In the hotly-anticipated rematch, it was close again, but Ali dominated the final round to edge a split decision.
15 September 1978 – Leon Spinks, Superdome, New Orleans
Result: Ali UD
Ali outclassed Spinks in the WBA title fight, in front of a record indoor crowd of 63,350, scoring a decision to become the first man to win the heavyweight title three times. This was Ali-Spinks II – seven months earlier Ali lost a split decision in Las Vegas to Spinks, a 1976 Olympic gold medallist. Upon that fight Ali had beaten all Olympic gold winners he previously faced; Patterson, Frazier, Foreman.
Ali-Spinks was The Ring magazine’s upset of the year, but in Ali-Spinks II, Ali avenged the loss in a unanimous (11-4, 10-4, 10-4) 15-round win. Celebrities like Sylvester Stallone, Liza Minnelli, John Travolta, and Jerry Lewis were ringside to watch history unfold. The bout was rightly billed as ‘The September to Remember’.
20 September 1972 – Floyd Patterson, Madison Square Garden, New York
Result: Ali KO7
Ali-Patterson II. Ali won both battles against Floyd Patterson. The first fight took place on November 22, 1965, and the second on September 20, 1972. Ali won both fights through technical knockouts. The first fight was stopped in the 12th round; and the second after the 7th round. Ali opened a cut above Patterson’s left eye in the sixth round and was swollen shut by the end of the seventh round, and the fight was stopped. This was the last fight of Patterson’s professional career.
28 September 1976 – Ken Norten, Yankee Stadium, Bronx
Result: Ali UD
Ali and Norton completed their trilogy in 1976. Ali made it 2-1 via a unanimous decision to retain his title. Until this date fans and experts argue about the fight and the judges’ decision. It was a close affair as always between the pair. Many observers thought Norton should have won, but again Ali looked best in those crucial ‘Championship Rounds’ according to others. Norton was sure he had beaten Ali once again. Ali said after the fight: “I had just enough to win. I know I’m the winner.”
29 September 1977 – Earnie Shavers, Madison Square Garden, New York
Result: Ali UD
KO artist Shavers came in having stopped 52 opponents in his 54 wins. By the end of the 12th round, Ali was ahead on the scorecards, eight rounds to four. Shavers rocked Ali with big punches in the 13th and 14th rounds (Ali took several unanswered shots), but Ali stole the 15th round and the fight. Shavers is the man Ali has called the strongest puncher he ever faced, and it took one of the greatest performances ever from The Greatest to beat him. He had to dig deep, be smart, and incredibly brave. But the damage was worrying, and Ali’s cornerman Ferdie Pacheco told him to retire after watching the punishment Shavers had dished out. As we know Ali didn’t, and he went on to lose three out of his last four fights after facing Shavers.
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 I: Aleksandr Usyk (Cruiserweight), Callum Smith (Super-Middleweight)
Season II: Josh Taylor (Super-Lightweight), Naoya Inoue (Bantamweight)