July 30th, 2012 By Pedro FernandezPICTURE IS WORTH A 1,000 PUNCHES!
San Francisco, CA- Having been watching and admiring Muhammad Ali since he was known as Cassius Clay, this when he went against Doug Jones in his Madison Square Garden debut in 1963, I have always pondered over the years what really was Ali’s greatest fight? Let me tell you that it wasn’t the “Rumble in The Jungle” with George Foreman, not the “Thrilla’ in Manila” or Ali-Joe Frazier III, nor was it his losing battle with Father Time.
SO WHO WAS ALI’S ROUGHEST OPPONENT?
The toughest fight for Muhammad Ali has been his health, in particular Parkinson’s disease coupled with the residual effects of 21 years of professional boxing and a glorified amateur career which netted Ali the Gold Medal boxing at light heavyweight in the 1960 Olympic Games. While some of you will look back and think that the punishment he took against Earnie Shavers, Larry Holmes, the aforementioned George Foreman or Joe Frazier, and point the finger at those wars and say they damaged Ali the most, that’s not the view from my perch.
THE 1965 ALI WAS ALMOST UN-PUNCHABLE
Before being exiled from boxing in 1967 by the U.S. Selective Service Bureau, this after they had originally classified Ali as being “too dumb” to be in the Army, the Government changed their mind soon after Ali announced he was now a practicing Muslim. After being forced into a 3 ½ year exile from boxing, the returning Ali was a “shell” of his former self. Post 1970, the majority of the damage Ali suffered was in the gym sparring against the likes of Larry Holmes, Ron Lyle and others.
WE NEVER SAW THE GREATEST AT HIS GREATEST!
The imposed hiatus from boxing took away both Ali’s peak and his legs. In some of the exhibitions Ali had prior to the first comeback fight with Jerry Quarry in 1970, Muhammad simply laid back on the ropes and took an unprecedented amount of punishment. Longtime cornerman and motivator Drew “Bundini” Brown screamed at Ali to “shoe shine” (throw fast flurries of punches) and get off the ropes in these ABC televised exhibitions, while he attempted to, for the most part he could not. In 1970, four years prior to the Foreman fight in Zaire, Ali was for all intents and purposes a shot fighter!
SADDEST THING ON TV SINCE 9-11
This past week we saw the 70-year old former heavyweight champion of the world at the Olympic Games in London, England. It was so sad that it depressed me. Watching an ill, frail and old Muhammad Ali being led around by a champion of a woman in his wife Lonnie, to me was the saddest event I’ve seen on television in years. It appeared to me that the progression of Parkinson’s and something that some boxing pundits refute, you know like the Koch brothers denying the fact that Global Warming exists, that the residual effects of professional boxing are the reason why Ali is in the state he is now.
FAILURE TO LEARN FROM HISTORY
They say, “He who fails to learn from history is a fool.” Having watched (and listened) to ex-world champion Frankie Klick when I was as young as ten years old, I knew the results of getting hit were not a positive thing. The reason I quit boxing was that the punches that were at one time missing me by inches, were now reduced to millimeters, and the ones that didn’t miss were landing at a far greater frequency.
ALI, FREDDIE ROACH, BOBBY CHACON, LIST GOES ON!
Most of you so-called boxing fans don’t see guys 20 years later. Look at Freddie Roach, the esteemed trainer of Manny Pacquiao and the like, Freddie is a medical nightmare who is well on his way to being in Ali’s current condition.
OFFICIALS, FANS, PEOPLE IN GENERAL DON’T GET IT!
That being said, time and again I go to boxing cards where fights are allowed to go on too long. The other night I watched Alfonso Gomez get the snot kicked out of him for eight of ten rounds against up and comer Shawn Porter. Had his corner, the referee, or the so-called ringside physicians stopped the fight after round seven, Gomez would have I’m sure objected and a good portion of fans would have booed. (A side note, Gomez was taken post fight to a local hospital examined and released) To these officials and paid spectators that balk at my mindset, I can only say one thing, look at Muhammad Ali today!