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Sports Hall of Fame

Muhammad AliMuhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali was the most must-see athlete of his generation. He was one of the greatest trash talkers in history but he surely backed it up when he stepped into the ring. Ali earned his nickname “The Greatest” by being just that. He burst onto the scene as an amateur and won a gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics but after turning pro he went 56-5 with 37 wins by knockout. When he beat Sonny Liston for the WBA and WBC Heavyweight boxing championships in 1964 it was viewed as one of the greatest upsets in boxing history, but looking back it was far from it. Ali held both belts for five years and only lost them because he was stripped for draft evasion for his personal beliefs against the Vietnam War. During his first title reign Ali successfully defended his titles nine times. After being stripped of the titles, Ali missed four years in the peak of his career while appealing his conviction. Finally, though, in 1970 he returned with back-to-back TKO victory and set up “The Fight of the Century” against Joe Frazier. Ali might have lost that fight but it never hurt his legacy because he stormed back and won 12 of his next 13 fights, with the only loss being a split decision to another all-time boxing great, Ken Norton. Ali and Frazier met a second time and Ali won by unanimous decision. That set up “The Rumble in the Jungle” against the powerful George Foreman. And Ali won by knockout and took his WBC and WBA titles back. In his second title reign, Ali defended his belts 10 times, including a TKO victory against Frazier in their third fight, the “Thrilla in Manila”. It was only at the very end of his career that he really declined and picked up three of his five losses. The first was a split decision loss to Leon Spinks in 1978, but in a champion fashion, he became a three-time WBA champion in their rematch seven months later at the age of 36.

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