Re: Muhammad Ali's defensive skills
It was his physical gifts that allowed him to pull that style of defense off. Some oldtimers said Jimmy Wilde had a similar style but he was a Flyweight I believe.
Ali not only had the height and coordination to avoid punches while pulling back but also an athletes anticipation. He knew every inch of the ring and he was able to use the ropes to his advantage by leaning back getting a man to reach then spinning off of them.
I think it would be more accurate to say that his defense created his offense more than anything.