Summer of 69: Muhammad Ali, Athlete and Activist


In the summer of nineteen sixty nine Muhammad Ali was one of the most controversial figures on the planet the boxers strength and charisma which had made him an international celebrity were now elevating aiding him beyond the realm of sports into the Cross section of Religion Politics Race Right now Ali was touring the country he sold out auditoriums to discuss Vietnam with college students and even starred in a Broadway musical entitled Buck White the World Class boxer. It seemed was doing everything except boxing. That's because he couldn't in a severe punishment from the World Boxing Organization Muhammad all the the champ who had never lost a fight had been stripped of his world championship title in Nineteen Sixty seven after he refused to fight in the Vietnam War additionally they'd revoked his boxing license and prevented him from competing. Many Americans viewed Ali as a draft dodger refusing to serve the country that had made him rich and famous his unwavering support of the Nation of Islam also made enemies frawley among the more conservative minded but at the same time other Americans were beginning to see all e as a new kind of champion an underdog who had put everything on the line in order to stand up for his beliefs to quote Dr Martin Luther King Junior. Whatever you think of Mohammed Ali's religion you certainly have to admire his courage Ali would eventually be embraced as a crusader for civil liberties and personal freedom in time this would catapult Ali back into the ring where he could attempt to reclaim his champion status by the time he was finally allowed to box again all he had lost three of the best fighting years of his life but he wasn't done far from it for Muhammad? Ali was on his way to becoming a true champion not just boxing but of the world hi I'm Vanessa Richardson and I'm Carter Roy Welcome to historical figures apar- cast original every other Wednesday we discuss different persons lasting historical impact unique personality and impression on the world around them are audio biographies covered big lives but we like to focus on little known facts today we're discussing boxer activist and Philanthropist Muhammad Ali recognized denies the world over for his physical prowess personal charisma and the sacrifices he made for his beliefs. Ali is regarded as one of the most important figures of the twentieth century. This episode is part of par casts summer of of Sixty nine event on July twenty second through August ninth. All your favorite par- cash shows are teaming up to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of a landmark summer in American history. The summer of nineteen sixty nine from the Manson murders to the moon landing. We're diving deep into the summer. America hit a boiling point with twenty three special episodes across sixteen different podcast originals. We'll be digging into the fallout of M._l._K.'s assassination assignation wide reaching l._S._d.. Colt and rumors of a Kennedy family cover up you can find these specials and more all on our new podcast presents feed on spotify or anywhere you listen to podcasts at podcast. We're grateful for you our listeners you allow us to do what we love. Let us know how we're doing reach out on facebook and Instagram at our cast and twitter at podcast network several of you have asked how to help us if view enjoy today's episode the best way to help us is to leave a five star review wherever you're listening it really does help before we begin. It's important to note Muhammad. Ali rejected his birth name Cassius ashes clay in one thousand nine hundred sixty four while we fully acknowledge and respect this decision we will be calling him cashes clay in this episode until nineteen sixty four for the purposes of clarity we will refer to him as Muhammad Ali leave from then on now back to the life of the greatest the prettiest the heavyweight champion of the World Muhammad Ali Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Junior in your in nineteen forty two. He was named for his father caches senior who in turn was named after Cassius Marcellus clay a nineteenth century plantation owner who joined the abolitionist movement freed his family's slaves and dedicated his life to furthering the cause of emancipation after the civil war though his namesake came from a legacy of liberation and the fight for equality cashes clay junior saw little of either in his early the life he was born in Louisville Kentucky during the Jim Crow era and face discrimination and hardship on a daily basis still clay learn from his parents to take pride in his name his mother Odessa a a domestic helper like to believe that the Klay Name connected their family to Kentucky royalty. Even though segregation had forced them to live in Louisville's impoverished west side cashes clay senior was a musician painter skirtchaser and a generally combative man Cassius Clay Junior it would seem inherited this urge to fight from his father as he grew older he went looking for ways to vent the aggression. In nineteen fifty four a twelve year old clay was exiting market when he found that his prized possession a beautiful red and white Schwinn bike had been stolen he was furious that bike had cost fifty dollars over four hundred dollars today today he resolved then and there to find a thief and punish him no matter what it took according to his autobiography the greatest my own story Klay heard that a policeman named Joe Martin could help him recover however is bike clay set out immediately to the nearby Columbia. Jim Were Martin led a weekly boxing clinic for neighborhood boys in his own words. Klay was entranced a minute he entered the gym the smell of sweat sweat and the rough sounds of sparring excited him for reasons he didn't quite understand he found officer Martin and told him he was going to find the bicycle thief and beat him up Martin no stranger to the misplaced aggression shen of young boys challenge Klay to get in the ring instead. It's likely Martin recognized Claes boxing potential. He was tall for his age with a long reach. It's also likely that as a community organizer Martin was looking into Channel Claes aggression into a more productive outlet or whatever the reason when clay left that night Martin tapped him on the shoulder and said we got boxing every night Monday through Friday from six to eight. Here's an application location in case you want to join according to Muhammad Ali researcher and biographer Jonathan I the young champ was fascinated to see quote black kids and white kids in the ring together. He realized what Martin was trying me to teach him. If the person who stole the bike turned out to be white and Klay retaliated he could go to jail or worse in Joe Martin's ring however there were no repercussions for striking a white boxer this this would have been truly mind boggling. The twelve year old clay race didn't matter segregate didn't matter nothing outside of the ring mattered. There was only the fight Cassius clay. A junior took Martin up on his offer to start training at first he was well not great according to Joe Martin clay quote didn't know a left hook from a kick in the ass in quote granted Klay was fighting an older more experienced kid but after one minute of wild flailing Klay was pulled from the ring with a bloody nose despite this first lousy sparring session he continued to box. He went back to the clinic day after day and became the. Hardest worker and Martin's gem six weeks later the twelve year old clay had improved so much that Martin arranged for him to fight on the television show tomorrow's champions which was broadcast all over the State Klay was pitted against Ronnie O'Keefe another novice boxer. This was his first publicized fight and he won it by split decision. After the match aired cashes clay senior reportedly exclaimed. My son is going to be another Joe Louis the world heavyweight champion Cassius clay with the support of his family clay wholly dedicated himself to boxing as he worked diligently with his trainer Fred Stone or however his schoolwork works suffered considerably. His teachers didn't know it at the time but Cassius Clay Junior suffered from dyslexia it would be decades before teachers would be trained to recognize students with learning disabilities so unfortunately many of his teachers is simply labeled him as dumb in his own words. Klay New College wasn't an option for him. He likely dedicated himself to boxing so completely because for the first time in his life he'd found something he truly excelled excelled at he barely finished high school ranking in the bottom five percent of his class over the course of his late teens. Though Klay racked up victories by the end of the nineteen fifties eighteen year old cashes clay junior had one six Kentucky Golden Gloves Championships. He'd made a name for himself among the local circuit as a big man who moved impossibly quick. Maybe a little too quick his coach Joe Martin says he tried to teach. It's the young Cassius Clay Junior had blocked punches and how to duck but he refused to learn these most basic of boxing skills Claes reflexes were so instinctively fast did he simply moved his head. The moment before an opponent could make contact hacked. This technique wouldn't always work but at the start of his career it distinguished him from nearly every other fighter another natural ability was his lightning Fast Jab fighters nearly always underestimated it because has of how light it looked but over time wore every one of them down advancing clay to the international spotlight as at the age of eighteen he was selected to compete in the nineteen sixty Olympic Games in Rome mm Italy. Unfortunately he almost missed his flight as it turns out the man who would come to be known as the greatest boxer of all time was scared of flying. He was so afraid of it that he actually considered considered missing the Olympics just to avoid getting on a plane that was Martin who convinced clay to go Martin appeal to his ambition. If you really wanted to win to be a champion he needed to compete in the Olympics Klay conceded though he took a detour on his way to the airport to buy a parachute from an army surplus store he would get on the plane but he wasn't going to take any chances he arrived in Rome and won his first. I three Olympic bouts easily in his final fight. He struggled slightly against the three time European champion zoo big new pediatric Hausky but was awarded the victory by unanimous verdict at the age of eighteen eighteen clay junior had obtained what most athletes only dream of an Olympic gold medal he should have returned to Louisville a hero but instead he was greeted with the same racism and bigotry he had always known after being refused service at a counter in his hometown. Klay became disillusioned with his Olympic victory while it was a measure of his athletic prowess it had hardly validated him in the eyes of his detractors clay had valued argued the metal because he thought it validated him in the eyes of others he had represented his country honorably and yet still was subject to derision and abuse from bigots as Klay rose to prominence he vowed to never again hold himself to someone else's expectations not his coaches not his family's and certainly not his racist neighbors from Louisville he was going to be whatever fighter he wanted to be <music> when we come back a legend unfolds a crusade begins and Cassius Clay Becomes Mohammed Ali hi there if you enjoy this episode on boxer activist activist and Philanthropist Muhammad Ali search historical figures on spotify and give us a follow to find more episodes now back to the story in nineteen sixty the eighteen year-old Cassius clay returned to his hometown of Louisville Kentucky and Olympic champion despite the racism and bigotry he experienced there on a daily basis clay did find some support in his segregated hometown a group of local businessmen at turns out had decided to sponsor Claes boxing career he would be given a weekly salary something virtually unheard of for boxers at the time it was during these tours in nineteen sixty that Klay attended his first meeting at Temple of the Nation of Islam he'd heard about the gathering from a street canvasser and would later say that at that meeting he finally heard the truth clay had known for some time that something was missing in his life. After his first exposure to Islam he realized what it was spirituality. He started studying the religion and took his first steps toward becoming a dedicated Muslim practitioner. At the same time Klay struggled to craft a public persona that matched his ambitions he'd won his fair share of fights and an Olympic gold medal but he hadn't yet learned how to pack seats and sell out stadiums <unk> something he'd have to do if he wanted to become the greatest in June of nineteen sixty one while promoting a fight in Las Vegas clay had a run in with famous professional wrestler Gorgeous George Clay shared a radio appearance appearance with George and was intrigued by the forty six year old entertainer. What was unique about gorgeous? George was how he would berate his opponents before during and after the match he was vain he was disrespectful and the audience couldn't get enough of it. Klay learned from George the value of playing a certain kind of character inside and outside the ring clay took to his new persona during interviews he would recite poems homes about his own greatness then insults his opponents calling them ugly or stupid. Some fans were enthralled and bought tickets to see if clay was as good as he said other fans were incensed. They bought tickets to root against clay fans started showing up in droves which in turn raise the prices of tickets and put more money in clay's pocket Klay was delighted to make money off of people who rooted against him because of his race he later later said he no longer minded their jeering as soon as they were done he'd take their money and be laughing all the way to the bank for years clay continued on in this way blazing a trail of victories becoming more and more entertaining and more and more provocative finally in nineteen sixty four at the age of twenty two clay had an undefeated record of nineteen o he insisted that no one could beat him and demanded his shot at true greatness. He wanted to fight the current heavyweight champion of the world. Sonny Liston. Listen was the kind of boxer Claes sponsors didn't want him to be in addition to being a professional boxer. OCSAR LISTON was also a mob enforcer with the backing of the Mafia as intimidating as he was he was the man Klay needed to beat if he wanted the heavyweight championship but before he could even fight Liston clay needed him to accept the challenge to persuade him Klay started following listen I to a casino and then to listens home in Denver. He taunted Liston demanding a match eventually. Perhaps only to get clay to stop. Listen agreed to fight the boxer from Louisville had successfully baited the heavyweight champion of the world into the ring clay had an undefeated record going into the match. But he never faced a fighter with listens experience Claes record was nineteen and Oh compared to listens thirty five and two well clay had sixteen knockouts. Listen had thirty two twice as many pundits generally agreed that Cassius clay was glorified TV personality while listen was a real boxer mercilus and mean polls leading up to the fight overwhelmingly predicted list and would win by a knockout vegas gave clay seven to one odds and most people said he wouldn't make it past the third round clay however never doubted himself he even publicly predicted he would knock list and out in the eighth around at the way in for the championship fight Claes heartbeat erratically as he continued to taught listen for the cameras to many people. It looked like he was buckling under intense pressure. Many people had predicted that Liston Austin was going to kill clay in the ring. This was not uncommon at the time particularly in title fights Davey more for example had died in his dressing room the year before in nineteen sixty three after losing the world featherweight other way championship match the year before that fighter Benny Parade had died after a welterweight championship fight boxers made their living by pushing themselves to the absolute limit sadly they sometimes times push themselves too far now in nineteen sixty four it looked like klay was doing the same after his way and people began to suspect he was losing his mind. Nobody knew what to think. least of all Liston however however clay would later tell his doctor Ferdie Pacheco that this was all part of a calculated plan to topple listen quote listen is scared of no man Klay explained but he is scared of a nut because he doesn't. I know what I am going to do. It seems that clay had been playing mind games with Liston ever since first totting him in Las Vegas and he wasn't going to stop until the title was his when cashes Clay Junior entered the ring on February twenty fifth nineteen sixty four no one thought he stood a chance his opponent sonny liston however was the slightest bit rattled at six foot. Three clay was taller than listen. He had a longer reach and he was younger faster it would be best for listened to go for the knockout quickly as everyone expected as the fight began listing through punch after punch at Clay's head but clay dodged every attack all the while delivering powerful jabs of his own he had revealed his strategy for the fight in press conferences weeks ago. I'm going to like a butterfly Michael be his hand okay hip throughout the match clay played head games strutting around the ring. Even yawning in the fifth round however Klay suddenly found himself in blinding pain something something had gotten into his eyes according to his trainer Angelo Dundee it was a caustic substance. It's suspected that this substance was oil of winter green which list and would have rubbed onto his gloves gloves illegally to injure clay in the biggest fight of his life. Clay suddenly couldn't see a thing but clay didn't let on at the top of the sixth he charged back into the ring managing ging to land several devastating blows after listing retired his corner at the end of the round he refused a comeback out claiming a shoulder injury list and conceded the title he had protected for over two years ears to Cassius Clay. The world was stunned but Klay simply repeated what he'd been saying all along. I'm the greatest he had finally proved it leaping up on the ropes clay pointed into the face piece of every reporter in the front row and kept saying over and over. I told you so the next day the world was stunned a second time as Cassius clay officially announced in a press conference that he had joined joined the lost found nation of Islam otherwise known as the black Muslim movement he was renouncing his slave and Ame of clay for the time being he would be called Cassius x a month later caches informed the world that Elijah Muhammad the leader of the Nation of Islam had conferred a new name upon him he would forever be known as he who is worthy of praise most high that of course is what his new you name meant Muhammad Ali according to Angelo Dundee all these long time trainer Mohammed Ali liked how strong the nation of Islam look to outsiders like many black men of his generation ocean. The Nation of Islam also validated him as an individual the religion celebrated the black individual citing white people. I E quote the White Devil and quote as the root of all suffering for black people the world over this strong stance alienated Ali from a lot of Americans but the champ didn't care in one interview he famously stated. I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be who I WANNA. WanNa be an think what I WANNA think people all over the world including Odessa and Cassius clay senior believed that all the was being brainwashed in manipulated by Elijah Muhammad and the nation of Islam because of his status as a celebrity all e- maintained however time and time again that their relationship was mutually beneficial and that all the never paid the nation of Islam any money it was amidst this controversy Z.. In July of nineteen sixty four Ali met and fell in love with a cocktail waitress named son g Roy the two were introduced by Ali's manager Herbert Muhammad the son of Elijah Muhammad and married a months later in August nineteen sixty four Ali was twenty two Sanji Roy twenty-three eventually the World Boxing Council ordered a rematch between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston and due to listens abrupt concession in the previous fight on May twenty fifth nineteen sixty five l.. E. Faced off against listen for the second time to defend his championship title the first time the two fought list listen had been painted as the villain now the tables were turned and it was Ali because of his religion who was scorned by the press and the Public Ali gloated that now fifteen months after their first fight he was the better of the two men media coverage aside the fight itself proved to be one of the most controversial displays in the history of boxing to this day. Many people believe it was rigged. That's because in the first round after only two minutes listen was knocked down by what looks to be a fairly light punch from Ali. This singular blow now-famous has been dubbed the Phantom Punch it was called Phantom because most people never even saw it boxing professionals had to review footage from the fight to confirm that all even made contact with Liston upon closer examination the Phantom Punch seems to have been thrown from a distance of six inches a span many argue was too close to knock out liston according to accounts provided by Nick Tauch is and the devil and Sonny Liston. Ali Lee himself didn't even believe the knockout at first. He shouted down to listen get up sucker. Nobody will believe this in the years since the fight many have supposed that Liston had taken a dive to benefit his friends is in the mafia others claim Liston was afraid of what the nation of Islam might do to him for taking the title from one of their most prized members list in wasn't the only person scared off by Ali's faith just months after the fight Ali's wife Sandy left him after less than two years of marriage according to Ali Sanjay quote wouldn't do what she was supposed to do. She wore lipstick went into bars and dressed in clothes that were revealing and. It didn't look right end quote as often as all the asked her to observe stricter behavioral code in accordance with the Muslim faith she refused Sanjiv had never been a submissive woman and she and Ali were destined to grow apart art when asked about the divorce years later sewn g described her struggle with the nation of Islam by saying quote. I wasn't going to take on all the Muslims if I had I probably would have ended up dead despite his pending in divorce and an increasing public backlash all he had what he'd always wanted a championship though reporters refused to write his chosen name in the paper he continued to win fight after fight showing particular regular malice to anyone who called him Cassius clay on more than one occasion Ali would actually refuse to knock out a dissenting opponent until they acknowledged his name was Muhammad Ali. The most notable example of this is his Ernie Terrell whom Ali nearly killed in the ring as he repeated over and over. What's my name what's my name? Then in February nineteen sixty six all e was blindsided by the toughest opponent he would ever fight the U._S.. Government without warning all he was reclassified as one a meaning he was to be drafted into the Vietnam War several years earlier her Ali had taken a mental aptitude exam to discern his eligibility for military service because of his dyslexia and near Illiteracy Ali scored too low on the test to qualify for service and was classified one UAE in nineteen sixty four however in nineteen sixty six because of a growing need for soldiers the minimum eligibility score for the test Ali failed was lowered and he was suddenly eligible for service purpose without a re-test or notification of any kind Ali found the timing of his classification highly suspect considering he was the black Muslim heavyweight champion of the world with a global platform to protest test the Vietnam War and promote the nation of Islam. He insisted this was the real reason he was now being summoned to a war he did not agree with despite his appeals on April twenty eighth nineteen sixty seven Ben Mohammed Ali was ordered to Houston Texas to report for duty in the Vietnam War. Ali appeared before the induction board as ordered but no one knew what he was going to do once there. If he refused to formally the report he would be charged with draft evasion a crime that carried a ten thousand dollar fine and a five year jail sentence the induction board called out the name Mohammed Ali but he refused to step forward lowered the board now nervous called his name out again but still all he refused to step forward the board called all these name a third and final time he did not step forward ten days later Muhammad Ali was indicted by a grand jury states across the nation began revoking his licenses to fight and then the World Boxing Association stripped ripped him of his title though he'd never lost a fight Muhammad. Ali was no longer recognized as the heavyweight champion of the world. All E was also denied his passport during his indictment meaning he couldn't leave the country three to box abroad. Essentially he lost the ability to fight his entire livelihood had been taken from him and there was a very real possibility that soon he'd be in jail. It's important to note here that the U._S. U._S.. Government and the World Boxing Organisation are separate entities technically they could never have worked together to push Mohammed Ali out of boxing the country at large however had grown increasingly afraid of the nation of Islam throughout the sixties Dis in part because of the violent acts that were so commonly associated with its different extremist factions as a result. It was easy for the powers that be to make an example of Mohammed Ali the U._S. government had shown what happened when a citizen refused to serve their country and the world boxing organization well. They showed what happened when a champion disrupted the status quo with both organisations bearing down on all the with all their might it it was anything but a fair fight. All E did have a few happy moments during this tumultuous time however on August Seventeenth nineteen sixty seven he married his second wife Belinda Boyd more dedicated to the Nation Nation of Islam Than Ali's first wife Boyd changed her name to Colella Camacho Ali after the wedding over the next several years Colella would bear Ali four children with more support at home. All he began the end touring the country giving speeches on college campuses about the war religion and racial injustice in addition to the outpouring of support he had received from his fellow Muslims. He was now garnering support amongst the nation's and young liberal population the whole time Ali was touring for these speaking events he was fighting for the reinstatement of his boxing license but it was slow going twenty. Two States refused to grant Ali a license governor of California Ronald Reagan even went on the record saying that draft dodger will never fight in my state period according to all these trainer Angelo Dundee one thing must be taken into account talking about all the he was robbed of his best years his prime years these were the years passed from nineteen sixty seven to nineteen seventy when all the fighter would have theoretically matured into the best shape of his as life Ali's long exile from boxing finally ended when the city of Atlanta granted Ali licensed to fight Californian boxer Jerry Quarry a group of Black Business Owners had organized the event and and Atlanta benefited tremendously from the events publicity to show support influential figures such as Diana Ross Sydney poce and the Reverend Jesse Jackson flock to what had become a red carpet spectacle the fight itself however was lacklustre after two close rounds all the cut corey above the eye and the fight was ruled a technical knockout but the champion was back is winning records still intact at around this same time Ali one of federal ruling that forced the state of New York to reinstate his boxing license. After a few tuneup fights Ali was ready again to challenge the heavyweight champion of the world world. The man who had won the title in Nineteen Seventy and who was in many ways Ali's complete opposite smokin Joe Frazier. It's almost uncanny how much these men's lives paralleled each other and how they seemed destined to meet Ali had won Olympic gold in nineteen sixty frazier won the same distinction in nineteen sixty four both men were revered as titans in the ring and now in one the most unique situations ever unfold in the world of sports to current heavyweight champions would face off against each other each with perfectly legitimate claims to the title it was truly a once in a lifetime event and it would make lifelong adversaries out of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier when we come back. We'll take a look at the iconic fight between these two champions Amash that would live up to its title as the fight of the century and now back to the story Muhammad Ali was scheduled to fight Joe Frazier in Madison Square Garden on March Eighth Nineteen in seventy one at this point he had made his final appeal against the charge of draft evasion and taken the matter all the way to the Supreme Court. If he lost the appeal Ali would be sentenced to prison and the fight with frazier. Could be his last. The press struggled to make predictions Ali had once been the fastest and the greatest but that was before three years of inactivity fraser on the other hand relied on his incredible strength lasting endurance to win unless Ali had maintained his stamina from years before he was in for a serious beating the fight of the century was true to its name seats were so hard to get frank. Sinatra Batra had to work as a cameraman just to see the fight Ali and frazier endured fifteen brutal rounds they found themselves evenly matched in strength and endurance then for only the third time in his career rear all the was dropped to the floor by a mean left hook from frazier. It was a close fight but that's slip helped convince the judges to declare a unanimous victory for frazier for the first time in his professional national career. After thirty one fights Muhammad Ali had lost he remained gracious with no taunting or excuses and it appeared to many that the era of Ali was over but little did the public public now after this humbling loss all e would go on to claim an incredible victory from the U._S.. Government a few months after losing the fight of the century in June nineteen seventy one Ali received word the Supreme Court was recognizing his status as a conscientious objector. He was no longer one a after four long years he had beaten the U._S.. Government according to Journalists Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong the Supreme Court justices were swayed by two things the first was the autobiography of Malcolm X. Published in nineteen sixty five which convinced some Supreme Supreme Court justices that all these nonviolent objections to the war were sincere. The second was the fact that no previous court had provided Ali with a reason why his status would be denied he was arguably the most famous sports figure in the world. If the Supreme Court was going to deny his final appeal they had best provide him with a reasonable explanation and that's exactly when the case fell apart wants the court set out to explain why Ali should be denied tied his appeal. It became apparent. There was no good reason why all these religious freedom should be encroached upon according to Woodward and Armstrong Justice Potter Stewart was largely responsible for convincing the Supreme Court you to approve all these appeal in an incredible unanimous eight zero decision overjoyed by the incredible victory Ali set out once again to reclaim his world championship title he battled title Joe Frazier once again this time he won by unanimous decision after twelve rounds since frazier had already lost his title however to the new heavyweight champion George Foreman this was simply a stepping being stone for Ali. If he wanted his title back he would now have to take it from George Foreman on October Thirtieth nineteen seventy four Mohammed Ali would get that chance and the African country of Zaire. I year in a fight dubbed the rumble in the jungle airing on H._B._O.. It took place at four o'clock A._M.. Local time in front of sixty thousand screaming fans the fans were screaming Ali Bouma yea which translates to Ali Kill him the him in that chant was George Foreman the aggressive young boxer who admitted he actually hoped to kill people when he stepped into the ring with them for weeks. Ali had been talking about a surprise tactic he would use on forman something he had been working out with his trainer. Angelo Dundee the night of the fight the world watched in confusion and then disbelief chief as Mohammed Ali unveiled an entirely new boxing strategy the rope a dope simply put all the arrested as much as he could on the ropes alongside the outside of the ring the impact of Forman's jabs then passed through all these body and was absorbed by the elasticity of the ropes to form and it looked like Ali was tired and scared so he continued to give everything he had tried to knock out all the as foreman became visibly fatigued. Ali began to smile and taunt him saying things like is that all you got in the eighth round all the brought form into the floor with a left right combination in a completely unexpected upset all he had taken back his title for the second time in his life. He was the heavyweight champion of the world but it still wasn't enough though he he was once again the reigning Champ Ali still had one more name in his ledger. Joe Frazier was the only man to have beaten him. Ali needed to beat frazier again to settle the score in nineteen seventy five live the two men would rematch in the Philippines for the Thrilla in Manila the two equally matched boxers needed to determine once and for all who was a better fighter and the results were difficult to watch catch by all accounts Ali and frazier left everything they had in the ring those watching began to worry that the boxers would murder each other at one point. I'll leave and muttered to his corner. This must be what dying being feels like despite the pain each boxer stood round after round trading blows and winning points off each other sacrificing their bodies for clear shots at one another until Joe Frazier's corner corner conceded the fight before the fifteenth round the fight was watched by a record one billion viewers and is considered by many to be the end of another era for Ali he never fully recovered from Manila and he found his prowess declining in the years after nineteen seventy five doctors had warned Ali before this about the dangers of boxing now they're warnings became only more frequent if he continued can you to fight. He could develop severe neurological disorders undeterred all the continued to fight according to his personal physician Ferdie Pacheco through his fights in the seventies quote Ali had discovered something which was both very good and very bad very bad and that it led to the physical damage. He suffered later in his career very good in that. It eventually got him back the championship. He discovered that he could take a punch Kerry Smith a member of all these entourages remarked quote. The first signal of decline was in all these hands check. Oh all these doctor at the end of his career began injecting them with Novacaine before or fights and the ride went on then the reflexes slowed the beatings began many speculated it was Ali's entourage the Leeches and many hangers on that had developed around him over the years that were bleeding him dry. I if this is true Ali would have needed to fight just in order to pay his bills. It lends credibility to this theory that in nineteen seventy six after the thrilla in Manila all reportedly checked into a hotel in required seventy seventy four rooms for everyone and his group has his lifestyle grew increasingly extravagant and his children grew older it became harder and harder for Ali to Balance Work Family in the tenants of the nation of Islam before long it was revealed to the world he'd been having an affair in nineteen seventy seven Ali filed for divorce from his second wife Colella Camacho Ali with whom he had four children she had stood by him for eight years by all accounts supporting him as he endured the most trying time of his life once their divorce was final Ali immediately married a woman by the name of Veronica Porsche Porsche who had been one of the poster girls rose for all these rumble in the jungle fight had begun a relationship with Ali three years before in Kinshasa Zaire at the age of eighteen in nineteen seventy seven the two were married in Los Angeles California this second. In divorce had no doubt cost Ali plenty and court fees but he still denied he was ever hard up for money over the years. Ali had built various businesses and restaurants across the country his share in these companies he claimed was worth worth millions. Whatever the reason Ali was compelled to continue boxing in nineteen seventy eight on February fifteenth thirty six year old Ali got into the ring with the young fighter Leon John Spinks Ali expected this to be easy? It was only the eighth time spinks had ever been in a professional fight and yet spinks outmaneuvered the aging Ali in nearly every round after fifteen rounds with no oh knockout spinks was awarded victory on points all e had suffered his third loss in eighteen years and lost the championship title spinks for his part had just claimed the heavyweight championship faster than any any boxer in history many believed that had been in the ring with a younger Ali he never would have won these same people now believed that Ali's career was over but Allie had never cared what other people thought after his loss to spinks Ali saw the opportunity to do something he'd always hated train. He truly believed that if he got into his best fighting shape he would be the first boxer in history to take third third championship title on September Fifteenth Nineteen Seventy eight exactly seven months after losing his title to Leon spinks Muhammad Ali climb back into the ring to take it back he was slower than it used to be. His reflexes deadening his breathing was labored. Many in the audience felt strange if not sad to see one of the greatest athletes of all time falling from grace so quickly so desperately so hopelessly sleep like before the fight went fifteen rounds but this time miraculously it was Ali who outmaneuvered spinks by unanimous decision history was made as Ali was awarded the championship title for the Third Time then in nineteen seventy nine in the manner most dignified Muhammed Ali came to an important decision after a legendary comeback he announced his retirement from from the sport of boxing out of reverence for his past and concern for his future all the wood box no more but then Larry Holmes came along according to all the the reason he continued to fight after the thrilla in Manila the fight with frazier which physically changed him was because people told him not to anything you tell me not to do all these said I'll do. The CHAP had an interesting point he he was told not to fight listen when he did he became a champion who was told not to fight foreman when he did he became a champion. He was told not to fight spinks and yet when he did he became came a champion. Is it any wonder then when people told Ali not to fight Larry Holmes he couldn't resist Ali's nineteen eighty fight with Larry. Holmes is one of the truly sad moments of sports history according according to Jonathan Ig- Ali's biographer Ali's health was quickly deteriorating at this point before the fight Ali was so uncoordinated and fatigued that he was unable to touch his finger to his nose in a physical examination nomination. Several sources have reported that prior to this fight. Ali was prescribed medication for a misdiagnosed thyroid problem. When the dose had no effect the prescription was increased as a result of the unnecessary a medication all the lost thirty six pounds throughout the course of his training? He later said he was quote weak dazed in a dream during his fight with Larry Holmes Larry a solid fighter grew progressively devastated dated throughout the match hating that he had to hurt his childhood hero but the heavyweight champion was simply too far gone homes knocked him out in the eleventh round all he would fight one more time fourteen months later against Trevor Berbick other than the fact that this was always last match the nineteen eighty-one fight was largely unremarkable in every way Berbick was declared the winner in the tenth round by a unanimous decision. It was an anticlimactic finale to an incredible career Ali retired shortly thereafter with a record of fifty six and five for a time he rested on his secluded farm in Michigan and before being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a degenerative neurological disease as a direct result of the years he'd spent in the ring following his diagnosis in one thousand nine hundred four all the divorced his third wife Veronica. I am married Yolanda Williams. According to his family he was highly contented. Despite his failing health he accomplished everything he'd set out to an spoke a few regrets he devoted himself to various philanthropic efforts arts including a nineteen ninety-four human rights mission to Vietnam where he was welcomed as a hero it seemed Allie was happy to spend the rest of his days away from the spotlight with the company of his wife Yolanda and his nine children Muhammad Ali the self proclaimed greatest still had one great moment to share with the world in nineteen ninety six in Atlanta the same city that had hosted his legendary return to boxing Ali found himself on the Olympic stage for the first time since one thousand nine hundred sixty he had been chosen as the athlete to light that year's Olympic torch an incredible honor that concluded the flames weeks long journey across the country entry as the former champion accepted the torch and began a sending a great staircase in the last leg of the journey the world stared in awe at Ali now a quivering speechless shell of his former self off the moment was simultaneously cause for celebration and reflection American journalists cal sussman described the world's reaction best quote. There are very few people in the history of the planet who could make everybody everybody in the world stop for a moment forget their differences smile and applaud in unison. Perhaps all the was the only one left. I wondered if there'd be anyone after on June third two thousand Sixteen Muhammad Ali passed away in Scottsdale Arizona after being hospitalized for respiratory illness he succumbed to septic shock. He was seventy four years old. Upon upon hearing the news people gathered all over the world to admire the larger than life. All the fans friends and family remembered the amazing achievements of the self-proclaimed greatest of all time now when we look back at Ali one of the biggest human beings to ever live. There's so much to remember perhaps however his greatest achievement has nothing to do with what he gave us and everything to do with what he gave up to fame sports commentator Stuart Scott the answer is simple quote what made all the revolutionary and what made in the most distinct athlete of our or any time is that he was willing willing to give up his career for a belief thanks again for tuning into our historical figures summer of Sixty sixty-nine special. If you enjoyed this episode checkout par cast continue to retrospective into the summer of sixty nine from July twenty second through August ninth the summer of Sixty Nine will feature twenty three special episodes across sixteen different podcasts covering everything from Vietnam War protests to the Zodiac killer. We'll be back with a new episode of historical figures next week. If you're interested in learning more about the summer of sixty nine be sure to check out our new podcast presents feed on spotify or anywhere you listen to podcasts several of you have asked how to help us if you enjoy the show. The best way to help is to the five star review and don't forget to follow us on facebook and Instagram at podcast.

Coming up next