November 3rd, 2010 By Pedro Fernandez
THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN “CLOSE CALLS”
San Francisco, CA- History has proven that even the great ones get a “free pass” now and then. Muhammad Ali, fighting on “Brains & Guts” after his 3 1/2 year layoff, the Ali that blitzed Cleveland Williams was no more. Ali, now in his 30s, was still a great fighter, but the Greatest in my opinion, he peaked out during that 3.5 year period of mandated unemployment brought about by Ali’s refusal to enter the US Army for the Vietnam war.
YOUNG FIGHT BROUGHT THE CATCALLS!
The match against Jimmy Young in 1976 took place in Landover, MD. With Ali looking “old & fleshy” before the first bell had even clanged, you knew were witnessing the aging of an icon. After 15 rounds, there was more than one person claiming Young had won. The following day, pundits around the world were all saying
JIMMY YOUNG FAMOUS FOR LOSING TO ALI & COONEY
Ali was looking old, slow and fat at 230 lbs, while Young, a punchless type of pug who was awkward and could box, seemed to be doing more in a lot of rounds. At the end of the day, Ali prevailed with scores 72-65, 70-68, & 71-64. Like Carl Williams with Larry Holmes, Young would never be afforded a much deserved rematch. He would face Gerry Cooney in an ill advised fight in 1980, and be pummeled into early submission.
THE FIGHTS WITH KEN NORTON
Some folks feel Ali never really beat Ken Norton in their three fights. The second fight, a rematch after Ali’s loss to Norton, an unknown robotic type of sparring partner who broke Ali’s jaw, took place at the L.A. Forum in 1973. After 12 frames, Ali was a one point split decision winner on two cards. The third judge had Kenny in front by a point.
ALI WAS ALREADY BOOKED OF EUROPE
A month after the Young fight, Ali stopped Richard Dunn in Germany on May 24, 1976. Next up, Ali’s achilles heel, Ken Norton and Ali would pack Yankee Stadium for third and final encounter. Rocked more than once by Norton, again we were looking at the aging of a great athlete, for Ali was so close to done you could stick a fork in him.
DECISION WAS BOTH BOOED & APPLAUDED
At the end of 45 minutes, 15 rounds, Ali would squeak out a win with referee Arthur Mercante Sr’s. score of 8-6-1 in rounds, while Harold Lederman and Barney Smith, they both gave it to Ali 8-7 in rounds. The fuss that came about in the media amounted to calls of retirement from writers all across the globe. If you talk to the hardcore fan on this decision, they are all of the opinion that it was close, with a majority thinking Norton did enough to win in the Bronx.
HOW ABOUT THAT “ACORN” GUY?
Two fights later, Ali tangles with the concrete block throwing Earnie Shavers in late 1977 in New York at Madison Square Garden. Ali would win that fight, but Shavers, said to be the hardest puncher in boxing history, he extracted his pound of flesh from Ali.
DID ALI THROW FIRST SPINKS FIGHT?
Although most people disagree with the sub title above, I’m not so sure. Ali would lose to Leon Spinks in February 1978, then rematch and beat “Neon Leon” seven months later. The rematch saw a trimmer Ali (221 lbs. compared to 229 the first time) do enough to confuse Spinks and escape with a points win. Ali would retire, comeback to face Larry Holmes, who almost killed him in October 1980, this before losing to Trevor Berbick in his ring finale one year later in Jamaica.
THE CLOSE CALLS…
The Doug Jones fight, the cut glove with Henry Cooper, which I did not discuss, the Norton trilogy, Jimmy Young, Ali may have been the Greatest, but not in these fights.