Muhammad Ali - three of his greatest fights

Muhammad Ali is held back by referee Joe Walcott, left, after Ali knocked out challenger Sonny Liston in the first round of their title fight in Lewiston, Maine, 1965 

MUHAMMAD Ali has died at the age of 74 after a 32-year battle with Parkinson's.

The man dubbed 'The Greatest' had some unforgettable bouts in the ring and, here, Press Association Sport picks out three


Four years after their first meeting, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier faced off in the Philippines for the third and final part of arguably the greatest trilogy boxing has ever known.

Frazier had won their first fight in New York in 1971, shortly after Ali's return from suspension for avoiding the Vietnam draft, with Ali gaining revenge three years later prior to dethroning George Foreman in Zaire.

A third fight was inevitable, hastened as it was by an intense dislike between the two men which had festered throughout their two previous meetings, and which led Ali to make the jibe for which the title of the bout became known.

By the night of the fight, Frazier was ready to go. He swarmed all over Ali, slamming home enormous left hooks and setting the pace for what would come to be regarded as one of the most brutal title bouts in boxing history.

The pace was unrelenting through 14 rounds, with both fighters dealing and sustaining tremendous punishment, before Frazier's trainer Eddie Futch decided to pull his man out before the start of the final round.

Unbeknown to Futch and Frazier at the time, Ali was also considering quitting, reportedly urging his corner to cut off his gloves, and later describing the bout as "the closest thing to death" he had ever known.

The win marked Ali's final truly great boxing performance, although he did manage to heroically rouse himself to win back the title he had lost to Leon Smith in September 1978.


Ali took part in some of the biggest fights in boxing history, but none proved more iconic than his mighty bout with Foreman in the dark heart of Africa: the legendary Rumble In The Jungle.

Ali's mission to win back the world heavyweight title seven years after being banned from boxing for refusing the Vietnam draft would have been a big story where ever it happened to be staged.

Thanks to the vision of an audacious new promoter called Don King, it was set for Kinshasa in what was then known as Zaire, whose despotic president Mobutu Sese Seko stumped up the cash in a bid for international recognition.

Ali had returned from suspension and slowly built himself back into title contention, his decision win over Frazier in January 1974 finally earning him a shot at reigning champion Foreman.

Expected to try to dance away from Foreman's big shots as he had against the likes of Liston and Cleveland Williams before him, Ali did precisely the opposite.

For round after round, Ali covered up in the ropes - a tactic soon to be immortalised as 'Rope-a-dope' - allowing Foreman to pummel away, gradually using up his reserves of energy in the process.

Ali would taunt Foreman and flick out fast jabs which noticeably puffed up Foreman's face. Foreman's angry responses only served to sap him more. By round eight, the fight began to take an extraordinary shift in momentum.

Midway through the eighth, Ali pounced, landing a pair of right hooks followed by a combination of shots that sent Foreman spiralling to the canvas, where he failed to beat the count.

But for all their epics before or since, nothing quite came close to matching the story of the Rumble In The Jungle, when the whole world watched transfixed as the most captivating chapter in Ali's astonishing career unfolded before them.



When Cassius Clay, Ali's previous guise, prepared to challenge Liston for the world heavyweight title in Miami in February 1964, he was considered little more than an audacious no-hoper.

Clay's status as a rising star had suffered somewhat in his previous fight, when he had been knocked down and on the verge of defeat against the game but limited Henry Cooper in London.

Yet the 22-year-old was prepared to risk it all against  Liston, who by complete contrast was coming off the back of two consecutive first-round victories over Floyd Patterson.

Only three of the 46 ringside reporters for the fight tipped Clay to win. Most had considered Clay's extraordinary antics in the build-up to the fight to be borne out of sheer terror rather than any display of confidence.

But it became clear from the early moments of the fight that Clay's boasts were far from misplaced. He used his superior speed to stay out of range of Liston's punches and make the champion look slow and awkward.

Through the early rounds, Liston pawed fruitlessly after Clay, who responded by clattering home punches from either hand which served to slowly drain the fight from a man who was used to having things all his own way.

At the end of the fourth round, Clay returned to his corner claiming to be blinded by a substance on Liston's gloves - he was ready to pull out, but his vision slowly returned through round five, and by the sixth he was back to his best.

After his most dominant round yet, Clay noticed Liston spit out his gum shield and quit on his stool.

Clay jumped to his feet, jabbing his glove at the sports writers at ringside and demanding that they 'eat their words'. He also first roared the sentiment which would follow him through the rest of his career and for the rest of his life: "I am the greatest!"

Fifteen months later, the pair met again, Liston folding in the first round from a so-called 'phantom punch' which inspired conspiracy theories about mafia involvement that continue to this day.

Liston fought on at a lower level, his last fight coming with a retirement win over Chuck Wepner in June 1970. Six months later, he died in mysterious circumstances in his home in Las Vegas.


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