This story originally appeared in the April 23, 1973 issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here.
If you have counted out Muhammad Ali as the next heavyweight champion of the entire universe, forget it. In the next couple of years he will knock out Ken Norton in four rounds, Joe Frazier in six and win his championship back from George Foreman by a technical knockout in 13. If you don't believe that, ask Ali.
His mouth is wired shut to mend the broken jaw Norton dealt him in the fight in San Diego, but to a talker of Ali's championship caliber, this is no handicap. His voice comes through clenched teeth loud and clear and confident, as always.
Last week, sitting behind a desk in a small, crowded room in the headquarters of Major Coxson, a black multimillionaire who is running for mayor of Camden, N.J., Ali discoursed at considerable length on past errors, his present condition and his brilliant future. He was dressed in a conservative blue suit and glistening black patent-leather shoes. There were no exterior signs of the badly broken jaw that probably cost him the Norton fight, except that he had to talk between his teeth. Oddly, he did this with none of the sibilance one might expect, his voice coming through as precisely as a ventriloquist's.
Going into the Norton fight, Ali explained, he missed almost all of his final week of training because of a sprained ankle. "I was playin' golf one day," he said. "Revolutionizin' the game. If I had not of been the greatest fighter the world ever seen, I could of been the greatest golfer. I don't stand there an' look at the bail and wiggle the club like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus and them cats. I was walkin' up to the ball and hittin' it while I was walkin' and knocking it 300, 350 yards."
He got up from behind the desk to demonstrate. He walked across the room and turned to show his approach, then walked crabwise toward the desk, taking three quick steps and swinging an imaginary golf club. Watching him, it seemed plausible that he could hit a ball 300 yards that way. In which direction was less certain.
"Then I figured I'm gonna do even better," he said. "I was gonna run up and hit the ball. First time, I hit the grass, second time I lost my balance and swung all the way round and fell down and twisted my ankle. Man, I laid out there on the grass for 30 minutes, my ankle hurtin', then the doctor for the San Diego Chargers come to see me and I had to spend the rest of that day restin'. Couldn't run no more at all before the fight, couldn't train right, nothin'." He sat down at the desk again and sipped from a cup of pureed navy bean soup.
Back in San Diego, where he came into the ring too heavy at 221 pounds, he had looked sluggish, probably because of the ankle, but even with that injury he felt he would have won. It was the jaw that did him in. He broke it in the second round, he said, not in the first as reported earlier. "I felt it go. Didn't know it was a broke jaw, but I felt it. Got hit with a right cross over a left jab. When I got back to my corner, there was dark red, bluish blood comin' out of my mouth, but I didn't want to quit because there was too many people involved, all them people paid to get in to see me and all them people on television everywhere."
The broken jaw ruined Ali's style for the rest of the fight. "I was fearful," he said. "Fearful of goin' in on the attack."
He got up again to demonstrate what he meant. "I'm fightin' a cat and he ducks," he said, shadowboxing, throwing quick, hard punches. "When he ducks, I can go whoomp, whoomp, whoomp, like this, throwin' uppercuts, crosses, both hands. But now I can't, I got to protect that jaw. I got to back off and cover up like this in case he throw a wild punch and hit me there."
He cowered away from his imaginary opponent, covering his face with his hands.
"Joe Frazier never could have fought a big, hard-hittin' 210-pound man for 10 rounds with a broken jaw," he said. "He's too muscledy. You got to be scientific and artistic enough to stall, keep the fight goin' and still protect yourself. My jaw hurt when I was showin' you that stuff, even."
A slim young man came in interrupting him. Someone had stolen the hubcaps from Ali's Rolls-Royce, one of the several luxury cars he owns.
"They gonna cost you $180 apiece to get new ones," he said, and Ali winced.
"Go get 'em and tell the man I'll pay him later," he said. He sipped at his soup again and returned to the fight.
"Didn't have a right hand after the sixth round," he said, holding out his hand and showing a swollen knuckle on the second finger. "Hit Norton a couple of shots on the head in the sixth and from then on it felt like I had arthritis in my hand, so I couldn't throw no punches with it. But I'm so great I still went on. I'm fighting with a broken jaw and a bad ankle and a sore hand and people say I look bad. But in that last round he looked bad."
He touched the jaw gently and shook his head in wonder at his greatness.
"Funny, the jaw didn't hurt so much in the fight," he said. "Under all the heat and the excitement, you don't feel it. Like a man in a street fight. He get cut in the stomach, fights on with his guts hangin' out and don't feel nothin' until he gets to the hospital."
Touching his jaw reminded Ali that he had made an appointment with a doctor for three o'clock. It was now nearly four and he called to cancel the visit.
"One good thing about it," he said after the call. "Took a broken jaw to let me stay home and enjoy my wife and my children. Now I lay around the house and play with my kids, work in the yard a little, help Belinda around the house, watch movies of my fights and cartoons. Otherwise, I'm all the time travelin', fightin' anybody, building up the boxing world. When I quit, it's going back to the same old slow, flat-footed thing it was before."
He slipped on his jacket, preparing to go home. Belinda, his wife, was preparing a dinner for two promoters from Indonesia, where Ali has a fight scheduled in July.
"Gonna be about three weeks before I can start running again," he said. "When I come back, people going to see a better Ali. My footwork will be beautiful, all that speed. Doin' the Ali shuffle, all them things."
He did the Ali shuffle, watching himself out of the corner of his eye in a wall mirror. He looked trimmer than he has recently, although he had not lost any weight on the liquid diet.
"I wasn't following my religion," he said. "I only have to answer to Allah for that. He knows what I was doin' wrong. Goin' to bed at one o'clock in the morning, sleepin' until nine before I got up to run."
Now he was waiting in the small foyer of the Coxson headquarters building, which he said he owned. "Goin' back to the old Golden Glove days," he said. "I was too busy puttin' on a show, talkin', laughin', makin' jokes. When I start trainin' again, all that is out. I'm gonna get up at five, say my prayers and run three miles. Three is enough, I don't need no more than that. Go to bed early, face to the east and say my prayers again. Train up at my camp in the Poconos, just me and my manager and a sweaty gym, like in the old days. I won't let nobody in to see me train but the press, so I'll get right down to business, no more shows."
He looked seriously at his companion, widening his eyes as he sometimes does when he is trying to evaluate the impact of his words.
"I'm more dedicated now than ever," he went on. "This was a test. Allah say, 'Ali, you so great, now you got your jaw broke, now let's see what you can do.' I'm gonna be better than ever. Should be in shape in maybe three months, then I'll give Norton another chance, though he don't really deserve it after barely winning a fight with a man with a broke jaw, a bad ankle and a hurt right hand. I'll bump him off in four rounds, then I'll bump off Frazier in six. I'm just in my prime at 31, know more, still can hit, still got most of my speed. Then I'll fight Foreman, but I won't knock him out. I'll beat him so bad they'll have to stop the fight in the 13th round."
His car—not the Rolls-Royce but a long Lincoln limousine—came around for him and he got in for the short ride to his home in Cherry Hill, a wealthy New Jersey suburb of Philadelphia.
It is a big, Spanish-style house in a predominantly white neighborhood. Lavishly furnished, it is built around an inner patio containing a swimming pool. Ali watches his movies and cartoons in a basement projection room that would do credit to a Hollywood studio.
At home, Ali left boxing for a while to discuss another of his talents—poetry. He has been nominated as a poet in residence at Oxford University, a post to be decided by the vote of Oxford graduates in the near future.
"Yeah," Ali said. "I heard about that. That Oxford a big, famous place?"
Assured that it was certainly famous, he grinned mischievously.
"How much they pay for a job like that?" he asked.
"About seven hundred pounds a year," he was told.
"How much is that in money?"
"Maybe two thousand dollars."
His face fell, but he thought about it a moment, then asked, "What I got to do?" Told he only had to lecture three times a year, he felt better.
"Hey," he said. "I'll get all dressed up in a big hat and tails and give 'em one of my regular lectures. I don't have to talk about poetry, do I?"
The prospective poet laureate of Oxford thought about his literary future only briefly before returning to his natural milieu.
He began analyzing the current crop of heavyweight contenders, not to their advantage. "I got four more years before they can say I'm over the hill. I'm gonna be in shape when I come back, down around 215 pounds. Ain't no reason for me to start with any warmup fights. I want to start with the best. Norton. He gonna get his chance, but he don't know enough. He ain't relaxed. Crowds bother him. We couldn't watch him train because it made him nervous. Frazier, he too easy to hit and he don't have the right style to come back."
He demonstrated Frazier's all-out, head-forward, hit-me style.
"George Foreman," he said, with relish. "He a better boxer than Frazier. He got a good left hand, hits hard, got a good right uppercut, too. But he's too slow on his feet. Don't move around. They tell me he gets tired after five or six rounds, and I can get in shape to dance for 15. So I'll just stick and move and tire him out and that will be the end of George."
He was sticking and moving as he talked, and he began to imitate his old friend Howard Cosell, who has broadcast most of his fights.
"This is gonna be the next big fight," he said. "Me and Foreman. Cosell before the fight, he's gonna be sayin', 'There is the unbelievable Muhammad Ali, the man who came back from a broken jaw to destroy Norton in four rounds, then knock out Joe Frazier in the sixth round.' "
His imitation of Cosell suffered from his inability to catch Cosell's nasal twang, but the timing and heavy accent on key words was perfect.
"Forty-five minutes later," Ali said, "he goin' to be sayin' this: 'Ladies and gentlemen, here is the incomparable Muhammad Ali, who has just chopped up George Foreman. He is the greatest fighter who has ever lived and no one will ever match him.' "
Ali savored the thought.
"Gonna be all those people jumping up in the ring, talking to ever body, tryin' to talk to me," he said, his eyes wide again, seeking belief from his listeners. "Gonna be hollerin', 'You the champ, you the greatest, you best ever lived.' They gonna be right, but I been there and I know how quick they forget. I'll be there, no marks on me, handsome, strong, the best fighter in the world, no marks on me from a fighter who destroyed Frazier."
He shrugged and, as often happens with him, the light dimmed. He has a curious faculty of being hypertalkative for a long time, then his eyelids slip halfway down over his eyes and he seems to go into a trance, thinking of the things he will—or can—do.
That mood lasted briefly before he lit up. "Then, you know what?" he asked, the eyes wide and sparkling. "Cosell gonna come into my dressing room to talk to me. He gonna say, 'Here's the greatest! They had to stop the fight in the 13th round because he was giving Foreman such an unbelievable beating. Champ, what have you got to say?" Then he's gonna stick that microphone in my face and I'm gonna say, 'Git away from me, sucker. I don't want to talk to you after all you say about me bein' washed up. I don't want to talk to you, sucker.' "
He laughed, thinking about that scene. He is sure it will happen. It could, except for the spurned microphone. The Mouth never could give up an opportunity to talk, broken jaw or not.
SI's 100 Greatest Photos of Muhammad Ali
In one of the most iconic and controversial moments of his career, Ali stands over Sonny Liston and yells at him after knocking the former champ down in the first round of their 1965 rematch. Skeptics dubbed it "the Phantom Punch," but films show Ali's flashing right caught Liston flush, knocking him to the canvas. Refusing to go to a neutral corner, Ali stood over Liston and told him to "get up and fight, sucker."
At 22-years-old, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) battered the heavily favored Sonny Liston in a bout that shook the boxing world. The fight ignited the career of one of sports' most charismatic and controversial figures, whose bouts often became social and political events rather than simply sports contests. At the peak of his fame, Muhammad Ali was the best known athlete in the world. Liston, one of the most feared heavyweight champions in history, was a 1-8 favorite over the young challenger known as the Louisville Lip. But Clay, here stinging the champ with a right, used his dazzling speed and constant movement to dominate the action and pile up points.
Cassius Clay punches Zbigniew Pietrzykowski of Poland during their gold medal bout at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Clay defeated Pietrzykowski 5-0 for the light heavyweight gold medal.
For the 18-year-old from Louisville, here atop the medal stand after his Olympic victory, all roads led from Rome. Clay finished his amateur career with a record of 100-5 and made his professional debut two months after the Games.
Undefeated in his first 17 pro fights, Clay mugged for the camera before the start of his 1963 bout against Doug Jones in Madison Square Garden.
Trainer Angelo Dundee urged his young charge to get serious before the opening bell against Jones. Clay followed instructions and emerged from a tough fight with a unanimous decision victory. Three months later he would stop Henry Cooper and close out 1963 at 19-0.
A seemingly hysterical Clay taunted Sonny Liston during the pre-fight physical for their 1964 bout. He had consistently baited the Big Bear during the lead-up to the fight, saying he was going to "use him as a bearskin rug ... after I whup him." The Miami Boxing Commission would fine Clay $2,500 for his outburst at the physical.
"I shook up the world!" an emotional Clay hollered to ringside reporters after his shocking defeat of Liston. And he did just that, claiming the heavyweight title at age 21 after a clearly beaten Liston, complaining of a shoulder injury, failed to answer the bell for the seventh round.
Draped in shadow, the young king — now known as Muhammad Ali — stared down the camera during a photo shoot in April 1965, one month before his rematch against Sonny Liston.
As Liston lingered on the canvas and the referee, former heavyweight champ Jersey Joe Walcott, tried to control Ali, the 2,434 spectators on hand in the Lewiston, Me., hockey arena — a record low for a heavyweight championship fight — tried to make sense of what all that had happened in less than two minutes after the opening bell.
The celebration over Liston continued. In a chaotic ending, Ali was awarded a knockout when Nat Fleischer, publisher of The Ring, informed referee Jersey Joe Walcott from ringside that Liston had been on the canvas for longer than 10 seconds after Ali knocked him down. The bout remains one of the most controversial in boxing history, with many observers insisting that Liston took a dive.
Ali's second title defense came in November 1965, against former two-time heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson. During the build-up to the bout, the normally soft-spoken Patterson earned the new champ's wrath by refusing to call Ali by his Muslim name. At the weigh-in, Ali's glare made it clear that he intended Patterson to pay for the disrespect.
In cruelly efficient performance, Ali punished Patterson — who was hobbled by a painful back injury — seemingly toying with the former champ throughout the bout, hitting him at will and calling, "What's my name?" before finally winning on a 12th-round TKO.
Capping off a five-fight campaign in 1966, Ali faced Cleveland Williams in the Houston Astrodome on Nov. 14. Known as the Big Cat, the heavily-muscled Williams was a power puncher who had racked up 51 knockouts in 71 fights. But he was also 33, barely recovered from a gunshot wound sustained the year before, and up against a young champion very much in his prime. Ali wasted little time in unleashing a withering attack.
Float and sting: In a display of speed and combination punching unmatched in heavyweight history, Ali overwhelmed Williams from the start. The challenger, here down for the third time in round 2, would be saved by the bell before referee Harry Kessler could count him out, but it would only postpone the inevitable.
Ali dropped Williams again early in the third round, and Kessler waved the mismatch over at 1:08 of the third.
In a multiple-exposure portrait, Ali demonstrates his signature double-clutch shuffle during a photo shoot in December 1966.
Ali sits in the locker room before his February 1967 fight against Ernie Terrell. Like Patterson before him, Terrell refused to call the champion by his Muslim name. Also like Patterson, he paid a stiff price, as Ali punished Terrell for 15 ugly rounds before winning by unanimous decision.
Outside the Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station in Houston in April 1967, Ali spoke to the press about his refusal to be inducted into military service. Among those on hand was ABC's Howard Cosell, who would be a staunch supporter of the fighter's stance. The decision cost Ali his boxing license and his heavyweight title, and he was sentenced to five years in prison but remained free pending an appeal.
In professional exile for three and a half years because of his draft case, Ali sought to return to boxing in 1970. He began with a night of exhibition bouts at Morehouse College in Atlanta, where before going into the ring, he shared a locker room laugh with actor and comedian Lincoln Perry (right), better known by his stage name of Stepin Fetchit. The friendship between the two black icons would later be examined in an acclaimed play by Will Power, Fetch Clay, Make Man.
After the Atlanta Athletic Commission at last granted Ali a license, the deposed champion went back into serious training. He was, as ever, in the capable hands of trainer Angelo Dundee, here wrapping boxing's most famous fists at the 5th Street Gym in Miami in October 1970.
With his return to the ring scheduled for Oct. 26, 1970 in Atlanta, against dangerous contender Jerry Quarry, Ali made it clear to all who would listen that he was on a mission to reclaim the title that had been stripped of him.
Reel to spiel: For the ever-loquacious Ali, even a rare moment of down time — like this afternoon in 1970 in a Miami hotel room — was a chance to do some talking.
Despite Ali's long layoff, his comeback campaign would include no easy tune-up bouts. He stopped Quarry in three rounds on Oct. 26, 1970, then, just six weeks later — an unthinkably short interlude by today's standards — took on Argentine contender Oscar Bonavena in Madison Square Garden. Here, Ali fires a right at the rugged and awkward Bonavena, who took the fight to the former champion all night.
After a long, often sloppy bout, Ali — here being held back by referee Mark Conn — produced one of the most dramatic finishes of his career, dropping Bonavena three times in the 15th and final round to automatically end the fight. The win cleared the way for a showdown with Joe Frazier, the man who had taken the heavyweight title in Ali's absence.
On the night of March 8, 1971, the eyes of the world were on a square patch of white canvas in the center of Madison Square Garden. There, Ali and Joe Frazier met in what was billed at the time simply as The Fight, but has come to be known, justifiably, as the Fight of the Century. For 15 rounds the two undefeated heavyweights battled at a furious pace, with each man sustaining tremendous punishment. In the end Frazier prevailed, dropping Ali in the final round with a tremendous left hook to seal a unanimous decision and hand The Greatest his first loss in 32 professional fights.
Ali poses with the fight poster for his upcoming fight against Jimmy Ellis during a photo shoot in July 1971. Ellis was an old friend of Ali's — both were trained by Angelo Dundee — and knew his fighting style well from many rounds of sparring.
For those sportswriters lucky enough to cover Ali on a regular basis, each day brought surprises and, more often than not, plenty of laughs. of Trainer Drew Bundini Brown helps Ali train for his fight against Ellis. Ali won the bout by technical knockout in the 12th round to claim the vacant NABF heavyweight title.
The man in the mirror stares back as Ali examines himself while training for a fight in 1972. He won all six of his fights that year.
The Louisville Lip stands next to George Foreman before Ali's fight versus Jerry Quarry in June 1972. Ali won by technical knockout in the seventh round. Foreman at the time was 36-0. Ali would not get his shot against Foreman for more than two years.
Ali throws a left hook at Bob Foster in their 1972 fight at Stateline, Nev. Although Ali knocked Foster out, Foster did leave his mark: a cut above Ali's left eye, his first as a professional.
Foster lies on the canvas after getting knocked down by Ali. Ali knocked Foster down four times in the fifth round and twice more in the seventh round before he was finally counted out after Ali knocked him down again in the eighth round.
Ali sits with sportscaster Howard Cosell before his fight with Joe Bugner in February 1973. Although unable to knock Bugner out, Ali won comfortably by unanimous decision.
Ali hits a speed bag while warming up for his bout with Bugner in Las Vegas. Ali prepared ferociously for the fight, training 67 rounds the week leading up to the fight, including six rounds the day before the fight.
In a lighter pre-fight moment, Ali poses for a portrait wearing a hat in his dressing room before the match with Bugner.
Ali plays with Sugar Ray Robinson's hair in the locker room before his bout with Bugner. The former welterweight and middleweight champion was Ali's childhood idol.
Before the fight with Bugner, Muhammad Ali enjoys a relaxed moment with a poodle at Caesars Palace Hotel. He won the fight with Bugner by unanimous decision.
Howard Cosell interviews Ali, with entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. in the middle, after his victory over Joe Bugner by unanimous decision in. Although the fight was never in jeopardy of getting away from him, Ali praised Bugner's legs and said he could be a champion in a few years.
Ali changes the diaper of his son in his bedroom during a photo shoot at the family's home in April 1973. Ali had suffered a broken jaw less than a month earlier in his fight against Ken Norton.
In the wake of his split decision loss to Norton, Ali plays with his son in his bedroom at home in Cherry Hill, N.J.
Ali kisses his daughter Jamillah outside of their home following the loss to Norton, just the second defeat of his career.
The Ali family standing outside their New Jersey home. To the right of Muhammad Ali are his twin daughters, Jamilllah and Rasheda, daughter Maryum and his wife, Khalilah, holding their son Ibn Muhammad Ali Jr.
At his training camp cabin, Ali pushes a boulder during a photo shoot in Deer Lake, Penn., in August 1973. Ali was training for his rematch against Ken Norton, who broke his jaw five months earlier.
Ali chops wood at his cabin in Deer Lake. He referred to the training camp as "fighter's heaven" and used it to prepare for fights away from the spotlight.
The fighters weigh in on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson ahead of Ali and Ken Norton's September 1973 fight.
Johnny Carson listens to Ali on the Tonight Show three days before his rematch with Norton. Ali would avenge his earlier loss to Norton, winning a narrow split decision.
Ali poses in front of posters and magazine covers from throughout his career at his training camp cabin in Deer Lake in 1974.
Ali poses with members of his family in front of a poster from his first fight with Joe Frazier. Ali's brother, Rahman Ali; mother, Odessa Clay; and father, Cassius Clay Sr. stand behind the boxer.
Less than three weeks before his rematch with Joe Frazier on Jan. 28, 1974, Ali wraps his hands while wearing a sauna suit at his training camp cabin.
Ali holds a newspaper at his cabin in January 1974. He is pointing to a headline that reads, "Frazier On Ali, I Think He's Crazy." Ali and Frazier fought for the second time later that month with Ali winning by a unanimous decision.
Ali lies on his bed at his cabin during the January 1974 photo shoot.
His smaller incarnation stares straight back as Ali plays with a doll of himself during the same 1974 shoot at his training camp cabin.
Ali and Joe Frazier fight on the set of The Dick Cavett Show while reviewing their 1971 bout in advance of their 1974 rematch. Ali called Frazier ignorant, to which Frazier took exception. As the studio crew tried to calm Frazier down, Ali held Frazier by the neck, forcing him to sit down and sparking a fight. The television set fight amped up anticipation of their January 1974 bout.
Exploring a different side of the sport, Ali broadcasts the fight between George Foreman and Ken Norton in March 1974. Foreman won the fight by technical knockout in the second round, setting up the showdown with Ali in Zaire.
Ali jumps rope at the Salle de Congres in Kinshasa, Zaire, while training for his heavyweight title fight against George Foreman. Both Ali and Foreman spent most of the summer of 1974 training in Zaire to adjust to the climate.
While training before his fight with George Foreman, Ali kisses his mother, Odessa Clay, while his father, Cassius Clay Sr., looks on. Ali's superior strategy and ability to take a punch led him to his upset victory as he absorbed body blows from Foreman before he responded with powerful combinations to Foreman's head.
Four days before the fight, Ali holds the hand of his son Ibn in Zaire. Ali successfully courted the favor of the Zaire crowd, prompting chants of "Ali bomaye!" — translated as "Ali, kill him!"
Ali poses in front of the Le Militant statue at the presidential complex that was the site of Ali's January heavyweight title bout with Foreman. The fight was originally set for a month earlier, but Foreman suffered a cut near his eye during training, forcing a delay.
Ali stands against the railing on the River Zaire watching the sunset four days before the Rumble in the Jungle. The fight was sponsored by Zaire to achieve the $5 million purse promoter Don King had promised both Ali and Foreman.
Before employing his famous rope-a-dope strategy against Foreman, Ali makes a face at the camera. Ali allowed Foreman to throw many punches but only into his arms and body, and when Foreman tired himself out from the mostly ineffective punches, Ali took control of the fight.
Ali points before his bout with Foreman. The victory over his favored opponent made him the heavyweight champion of the world for the first time since he was stripped of his titles in 1967.
Ali stares at George Foreman during the Rumble in the Jungle. Ali earned his shot at the heavyweight title by defeating Joe Frazier in January 1974, avenging a loss three years earlier.
Foreman lies down on the canvas as Ali stands in the background during the Rumble in the Jungle. Ali knocked Foreman down with a five-punch combination in the eighth round, and referee Zack Clayton counted him out.
Big George stares at the ceiling as referee Zack Clayton counts him out in the eighth round. The victory made Ali, once again, the heavyweight champion of the world.
Ali poses for a portrait after being selected as the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 1974. Ali wore a dashiki, a men's garment widely worn in West Africa. He also brought the walking stick given to him by Zaire's president.
This time Ali wears a tuxedo, but keeps the walking stick, during the November photo shoot for Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year.
Ali talks with Howard Cosell outside of the United Nations Headquarters for a segment on the Wide World of Sports. Later that day, Ali held a press conference to announce that he would donate part of the proceeds from his fight against Chuck Wepner to help Africans in the Sahel drought.
Ali talks with Reverend Jesse Jackson outside of the United Nations Headquarters before a press conference to announce that he would donate part of the proceeds from his fight against Chuck Wepner to help Africans in the Sahel drought.
Ali stands with trainer Angelo Dundee, assistant trainer Wali Muhammad, physician Dr. Ferdie Pacheco and assistant trainer Drew Bundini Brown before his bout with Ron Lyle in May 1975. Ali won the fight by technical knockout in the 11th round.
Along with Don King and Joe Frazier, Ali sat for a portrait leading up to the Thrilla in Manila. Ali verbally abused Frazier during the buildup to the fight, telling the media that "it will be a killa and a thrilla and a chilla when I get the gorilla in Manila."
Ali points at the camera with Don King and his training staff behind him before the weigh-in for the Thrilla in Manila in October 1975. Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos offered to sponsor the bout and hold it in Metro Manila to divert attention from the turmoil in the country that had forced the imposition of martial law in 1972.
Wrapping up Joe Frazier proved more difficult than Ali expected, having thought Frazier would represent an easy payday and be unable to live up to his billing. The fight turned out to be a brutal affair.
Frazier faces an Ali right hook in their fight in Quezon City, Philippines. The two fighters traded vicious blows during their 14 rounds. "Man, I hit him with punches that'd bring down the walls of a city," Frazier said. Ali withstood the blows to win by TKO in the 15th round.
The third fight between Ali and Frazier, Ali won the bruising battle between the two powerful punching heavyweights when Frazier's trainer, Eddie Futch, stopped the fight before the 15th round.
A back and forth exchange, Ali controlled the early rounds of the Thrilla in Manila before Frazier fought back with powerful hooks. Ali finished strong, regaining momentum in the later rounds.
Ali speaks to the press after winning the Thrilla in Manila bout with Frazier.
Ali holds a drinking concoction given to him by Dick Gregory, an advocate of a raw fruit and vegetable diet, in 1976.
Before his 1976 fight against Ken Norton at Yankee Stadium, Ali watches a fight on television from his hotel room. A police strike at the time of the fight created a dangerous environment outside the stadium that all but eliminated walk-up sales.
Norton takes a right hook during the heavyweight title fight against Ali. The bout, which Ali won by a unanimous, but controversial, decision, was the last boxing match at Yankee Stadium until 2010.
Ali makes a face during his fight with Earnie Shavers in 1977 at Madison Square Garden. Hurt badly by Shavers in the second round, Ali rebounded and outboxed Shavers throughout to build a lead on points before Shavers came on again in the later rounds. Seemingly exhausted going into the 15th and final round, Ali remained victorious by producing a closing flurry that left Shavers wobbling at the bell and the Garden crowd once again in delirium over his Ali magic.
Ali squares off with Leon Spinks at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel in February 1978. Spinks won the fight in a split decision, ending Ali's 3.5-year reign as the heavyweight champion. It was the only time in Ali's career that he lost his championship title in the ring.
Leon Spinks took center stage over Ali at the press conference after their fight. The victorious Spinks and his gap-toothed grin were featured on the Feb. 19, 1978 cover of Sports Illustrated.
Ali lands a straight right hand to the head of Spinks in the rematch of their title bout in 1978. Ali won on a 15 round decision.
Don King pulled the strings again when Ali faced Larry Holmes before their November 1980 fight. King became a key figure in Ali's career, promoting his biggest fights, the Thrilla in Manila and the Rumble in the Jungle.
Ali points at Larry Holmes before their bout at Caesars Palace in 1980.
Ali grapples with Holmes during their bout in 1980. Trainer Angelo Dundee stopped the fight in the 11th round, marking the fight as Ali's only career loss by knockout.
Drew Bundini Brown leans in to speak to Ali, who returned to fight Holmes after a brief retirement. By this time, Ali had already begun developing a vocal stutter and trembling hands and taken thyroid medication to lose weight that left him tired and short of breath.
Ignoring pleas for his retirement, Ali stretches before a fight against Trevor Berbick in Nassau, Bahamas. Ali lost to Berbick in a unanimous decision and retired after the bout, the 61st of his career.
Ali pretends to spar with artist LeRoy Neiman at his home in Los Angeles. Neiman met Ali in 1962 and made many paintings and sketches from throughout Ali's life.
Cake in hand, Ali poses for a 50th birthday portrait in 1991. Although diagnosed with Parkinson's syndrome seven years earlier, Ali was still active, traveling to Iraq during the Gulf War to meet with Saddam Hussein in an attempt to negotiate the release of American hostages.
The same year, Ali stands atop of the Sonny Liston rock at his old training camp cabin. Ali and his father painted the names of famous boxers he admired on 18 boulders at the camp.
Ali carries the Olympic torch inside Centennial Olympic Stadium at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Despite trembling hands, Ali had the honor to light the Olympic flame in the stadium.
Husband and wife pose for a portrait during a photo shoot in 1997. Muhammad and Lonnie married in 1986 and have an adopted son together, Asaad Amin Ali.
Ali messes around with actor Billy Crystal during a photo shoot in 2000. Crystal's impression of Ali was notorious, and he performed at a tribute to the boxer on his 50th birthday in December 1991.
Ali lies on the canvas as his son, Assad Amin Ali, stands over him invoking memories of Ali's victory over Sonny Liston during a photo shoot in the gym at his farm on Kephart Road near Berrien Springs in 2001.
Fierce rivals in the ring, Ali and Joe Frazier pose for a portrait in the boxing robes they wore the night of their first bout at Frazier's Gym in 2003. Ali said after Frazier's death in 2011 that he was "a great champion."
Ali takes a punch from his daughter Laila Ali while sparring before her fight against Erin Toughill in 2005. Laila retired from her own successful boxing career with a professional record of 24-0.
Ali poses with his fists up for a portrait in 2005.
Ali poses with an extended punch in a 2012 photo shoot at his home in Paradise Valley, Ariz., to mark his 70th birthday.
Ali sits in front of a 70th birthday cake in January 2012 at his Arizona home. Later that year he appeared at the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Olympics in London to escort the Olympic flag into the stadium, 52 years after he won gold in Rome.