Record: 56 wins 37 KO 5 losses (56-5)
Boxing Era: 1960-1981
In every aspect of the sport, Muhammad Ali was electrifying. Ali was an exciting, outspoken, undefeated boxing phenomenon in is prime, and was by far boxing's best entertainer. Ali would often taunt his opponents, fake punches, and do his famous shuffles in the ring. He was also just as good a boxing promoter as he was a boxer; his loud mouth trash talk, and rhyming antics were truly larger than life and unprecedented in the sport.
Eventually Ali was stripped of the heavyweight title, banned from boxing, and faced imprisonment during his prime for refusing to fight in Vietnam because of his religious beliefs.
This was Ali’s most controversial moment. Ali’s rise to dominance in the boxing world came after the careers of African-American Champions Jack Johnson, and Joe Louis, and many African-Americans still held resentment for the Nation's treatment of them. Jack Johnson was always kept down and discredited. Joe Louis was a hero but still was betrayed and derailed with taxes. Muhammad Ali was a strong, confident, and new kind of African-American heavyweight champ encased in many of the controversies of the 60’s. The country tried to shame him as an unpatriotic draft evader for not fighting in Vietnam, but Ali had a very serious argument that reverberated all over the world. He voiced his disapproval of the reasons, or lack there of, why we were at war in the first place. Primarily he made note of his own people being denied rights, jailed and discriminated against. He noted with disgust that his people, even African-American women were being unfairly treated and oppressed, hunted by police, attacked by dogs and hosed down like animals in the street. He asked why he should be forced to fight for a country that hasn’t even given his people their rights and equality at home yet, all to help murder and oppress other people of color 10,000 miles away. One of his famous one liners was “No Vietcong ever called me N****r.”
Ali returned despite that huge 3 year set back, rebounded and still found a way to emerge on top again beating the best of the best.
Ali brought us the most famous fights in boxing and in one of the sports most action packed and competitive eras. He got the best of the exchanges with Joe Frasier, George Foreman, Ken Norton, and Leon Spinks----and he still found a way to do it when he was no longer invincible, after his prime. Most of his post-prime fights are all legendary and we know some of them by their nicknames like “The Thrilla in Manilla”, “The Rumble in the Jungle”.
Ali was already a living legend but catapulted in to all time boxing supremacy after dismantling a young, undefeated, and then unstoppable Big George Foreman. Ali was getting older and people finally thought of him as the underdog who's time was up. Foreman obliterated Frasier and became champion, and many thought Ali's humbling beating was next. However, the event was something magical. It was clear Ali was something much more than a boxer who permanently changed and inspired the entire world. Ali had the entire African town chanting in the streets "Ali, Kumbaye!", then somehow Ali knocked out Foreman with an unprecedented strategy and became Heavyweight Champion for an unheard of 3rd time. The seemingly unbeatable Foreman now had 1 loss, Muhammad Ali. No longer seen as arrogant, he was special, and he delivers. At this point, referring to him as "The Greatest" began to seem undisputed and justified.
Ali is credited for being the Heavyweight Champion of the world at the most competitive and difficult times to be Heavyweight Champ. He incredibly avenged every loss he ever had, usually coming up best of 3, except his very last 2 fights when Father Time would have his way, both losses to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick. People started to notice his demeanor was changing. In his very last fight, the old lion could not be knocked out, he still went the distance but sadly didn’t have the ability to win anymore and retired at 39.
Muhammad Ali is still one of the most famous, and legendary men in the world. Whenever the greatest of all time are discussed, his name will be at the very top of the list for a very long time to come.