By Douglas Ward, Marketing Director at TITLE Boxing
Yes, he stakes claim to the title The Greatest of All Time. Many historians even consider him the best fighter, Pound-for-Pound, of any era. His power and presence extended far beyond the boxing ring; but what truly makes Muhammad Ali one of the best fighters to ever lace-up a pair of boxing gloves is a combination of traits that few athletes are able to wrap into one package.
Let's break these down and look at each one, starting from the top:
His jab. Jimmy Jacobs, who owned the world’s largest collection of fight films, once stated that, “On film tests with a synchronizer, Ali’s jab was faster than even Sugar Ray Robinson’s.” Jacobs contended that Ali was not only the fastest heavyweight, but also the fastest fighter he had ever seen on film. On top of the speed, Ali also used it accurately and often. He used it to dictate the pace of the fight and the range the bout was fought at. It is as simple as that.
His footwork. He used it like military ground forces. His feet dictated when and where war would be waged. His quickness carried him in and out of trouble and was used to frustrate his opponents. Ali was always on his toes to maximize mobility and gain leverage on every punch.
His reflexes. His speed and keen sense of the ring made him a difficult target to hit. He was able to make his opponents miss their punches by millimeters while always staying in position to counterpunch.
His ring intelligence. Muhammad Ali had a boxing IQ that vanquished more opponents than his athleticism did. From positioning to purpose, Ali was able to slow the action down, control it and simply react.
His showmanship. To say he was the ultimate showman would be an understatement. He was a promoter, a publicist, and a performer all rolled up into one superior athlete. This unique combination to "work a room" gave him the ability to name the round, give the reporters their story and the fans their money’s worth.
His resilience. Although he shared the ring with some of the greatest punchers to ever climb through the ropes, Muhammad Ali only tasted the canvas four times, in 61 total fights. Henry Cooper dropped him into the ropes in the fifth round of their first encounter and Joe Frazier had him on the seat of his trunks in the 14th in the first of their legendary trilogy. Sonny Banks and Chuck Wepner even have bragging rights to have gotten Ali down, although Wepner’s was questionable. Beyond that, Muhammad Ali tasted and weathered the fire power of some of boxing history’s most enormous power punchers like Sonny Liston, Ernie Shavers and George Foreman. When his amazing defensive skills failed him, Muhammad Ali was still able to stand up against huge punches and a tremendous amount of punishment...maybe to his detriment.
There are many nuances to Muhammad Ali's personality, in and out of the ring. His passion as a fighter, his compassion as a human being, and an insatiable appetite to shake up the world is a pursuit that no fighter can go wrong in trying to accomplish. Mimicking the best traits Ali had to offer may not make you the greatest, but…will allow you to make your mark.
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