The following article is a dedicated contribution from Jeff Burns.
Ali's professional boxing career spanned three decades
Ali's professional boxing career had spanned over three decades beginning in October 1960 and ending in December 1981. He was 18 years old when he made his debut and just a month short of his 40th birthday when he retired. He had fought 61 times winning all but five. Three of his five defeats against Spinks, Holmes and Berbick were in his last four contests the other two against Frazier and Norton were both avenged twice over.
Sadly, Ali's brave performances in the latter days of his prestigious career have taken their toll on the great man, leaving him with Parkinson's syndrome denying him of one of his greatest assets his fantastic ability to communicate. The World has been denied great entertainment, valuable spiritual, political and sporting opinion as a consequence of his illness.
Against tremendous odds, Ali first captured the heavyweight crown from Sonny Liston.
He successfully defended the title nine times before he was suspended from boxing and lost three and a half years of what would have been the 'peak years' of his career. He returned to challenge Joe Frazier after having had only two warm up fights and although he fought gallantly but was unable to repel the incessant onslaught of his successor.
This was a different Ali to the defending champion who had knocked out Zora Folley in 1967. The lengthy lay off had clearly robbed Ali of his ability to jab, move and dance for 15 rounds. He was now forced to take breathers by holding on or lying back on the ropes.
Shocked the world beating the seemingly invincible Texan gladiator George Foreman
Incredibly and again against all the odds, Ali shocked the world in that amazing display of cunning and courage when he knocked out and shattered the unbeaten record of the seemingly invincible Texan gladiator George Foreman. He amazed the boxing fraternity when he boxed Smokin' Joe Frazier to a standstill in one of the most brutal heavyweight title fights of all time in the 'Thriller in Manila.'
In his second reign as champion he successfully defended the title on 10 occasions before losing to Leon Spinks from whom he regained the title four months later. Ali boxed and beat every heavyweight of note with the exception of Holmes and Berbick whom he fought long, long after he should have retired. He avoided no one, every worthwhile contender that was around got a shot at Ali, and if they wanted and had earned a rematch, they got one.
Early days noted for speed and skill, latterly courage and durability!
In his early days Ali was noted for his speed and his boxing skill, sadly in the latter part of his career his main attributes were his courage and durability. Ali had boxed in a period when there was a glut of heavyweight talent. He boxed six fighters who were undisputed heavyweight champions and four others who laid claim to a version of the title, he had also beaten two light heavyweight title holders. He had fought in the USA, Canada, England, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Ireland, Indonesia, Zaire, Malaysia, Philippines, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, he is not just the most famous boxer, not just the most famous sportsman but the most famous person in the World.
Would he have beaten...
Would he have beaten Johnson, Dempsey, Louis, Marciano, Holmes, Tyson, Holyfield, Lewis or either of the Klitschko brothers or any other of the great champions if they had met when at the peaks of their careers? One can only speculate! How would he have fared if he were a middleweight against the greats of that division Bob Fitzimmons, Stanley Ketchel, Mickey Walker, Sugar Ray Robinson, Dick Tiger, Carlos Monzon and Marvellous Marvin Hagler, who can say? Would he have been victorious if he boxed at the same time and in the same weight categories as Jimmy Wilde, Al Brown, Sandy Saddler, Benny Leonard, Sugar Ray Leonard or Harry Greb?