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Ali’s most amazing record by Ron Jackson

Muhammad Ali was one of the boxers in the ring when the record for the smallest attendance at a world heavyweight title fight was set.

It happened in Lewiston, Maine, on May 25 1965 when Ali and Sonny Liston met for the second time. Only 2 434 spectators paid to watch the bout.

And despite Ali’s popularity, the largest paid attendance at a world heavyweight title fight has been standing since 1926 and will probably never be equalled. The official attendance for the first bout between Dempsey and Gene Tunney was 120 757. They met in the Sesquicentennial Stadium in Philadelphia on September 23 1926.

Ali, then still known as Cassius Clay, won the heavyweight title when Sonny Liston failed to answer the bell for the seventh round of their fight in Miami Beach on February 25 1962.

One of the many records held by Ali is that he fought in the first heavyweight title fight in Africa. He met George Foreman in Kinshasa in Zaire on October 30 1974 and that time there were 65 000 spectators. Ali won by knockout in the eighth round to become only the second fighter to regain the title. On May 9 1967, the New Y ork Boxing Commission and the World Boxing Association stripped Ali of the title for refusing to do military service.

These are some of the fascinating facts that emerge when one studies the history of heavyweight title fights.

Let’s look at some of them.

The last bare-knuckle fight for the word heavyweight championship was on July 8 1889 when John L Sullivan beat Jake K ilrain over 75 rounds. Sullivan lost the title three years later in the first title fight fought under Queensberry Rules.

The first time gloves were used in a fight for the world heavyweight title was when Sullivan and James J Corbett met in New Orleans on September 7 1892. Corbett won on a knockout in the 21st round.

Corbett was also the first man who tried to regain the title after he had lost it. He made his first attempt on May 11 1900 when Jim Jeffries knocked him out in the 23rd round. He tried again on August 14 1903. This time Jeffries needed only ten rounds to stop him.

Tommy Burns knocked out Jem Roche in one minute 28 seconds in Dublin on March 17 1908. It was the fastest knockout in a world heavyweight title fight at the time.

The lightest anyone has weighed for a world heavyweight title fight was 158 pounds (71.66 kg). The record was set by Charley Mitchell when he challenged Corbett for the title on January 25 1894. They met in Jacksonville, Florida and Corbett won by knockout in the third round.

Corbett was the first man who used oxygen in his corner during a heavyweight title fight. It happened when he fought Jeffries in San Francisco on August 14 1903. Jeffries won by knockout in the tenth round.

Jersey Joe Walcott became the oldest man to win the undisputed heavyweight championship when he knocked out Ezzard Charles in the seventh round in Pittsburgh on July 18 1951. Walcott’s real name was Arnold Raymond Cream.

Eight light-heavyweight champions have failed to win the world heavyweight title. They were “Philadelphia” Jack O’Brien, Georges Carpentier, Tommy Loughran, John Henry Lewis, Billy Conn, Joey Maxim, Archie Moore and Bob Foster. Michael Spinks won the IBF heavyweight title by outpointing Larry Holmes on September 21 1985.

Nine heavyweight champions failed to regain the title after losing it before Floyd Patterson succeeded on June 20 1960, when he was 25 years old. Those who failed were Jim Corbett, Bob Fitzsimmons, Jim Jeffries, Jack Dempsey, Max Schmeling, Joe Louis, Ezzard Charles, Jersey Joe Walcott and Sonny Liston.

Joe Louis holds the record for holding world heavyweight title for the longest time and making the most defences. He won the title on June 22 1937 and retired as undefeated champion 11 years and eight months later, on March 1 1949. He defended the title 25 times.

The record for most knockdowns in one round in a heavyweight fight stands at nine. It happened when Jack Dempsey and Luis Firpo met on September 14 1923. Dempsey was down twice and Firpo seven times in the first round.


The first world heavyweight title fight shown on television was between Joe Louis and Jersey Joe Walcott in New Y ork on December 5 1947. Louis won on points.

Rocky Marciano was the only heavyweight champion who never lost. He retired undefeated at the age of 33 after making six defences. He fought in 49 professional bouts, winning 43 on knockouts and six on points.

Pete Rademacher challenged for the world title in his first professional fight. Floyd Patterson knocked him out in the sixth round in at Seattle on August 22 1957.

The “20-seconds return” clause was introduced for the first time for a world heavyweight title fight when Patterson and Ingemar Johansson met in the Convention Hall in Miami Beach on March 13 1961. It meant if a fighter was knocked out of the ring, he would be given 20 seconds to return before he could be counted out.

The first woman to judge a world heavyweight title fight was Eva Shain. She was one of the three who scored the fight between Muhammad Ali and Earnie Shavers at Madison Square Garden in New Y ork on September 29 1977. She scored it nine rounds for Ali and six for Shavers.

Leon Spinks outpointed Ali over 15 rounds on February 15 1978 to win the heavyweight title. A month later the WBC withdrew its recognition when Spinks refused to defend the title against Ken Norton and proclaimed Norton the new champion. The WBA still recognised Spinks as their champion.

Muhammad Ali regained the heavyweight title for the third time when he outpointed Leon Spinks over 15 rounds in New Orleans on September 15 1978. Ali announced his retirement as undefeated WBA heavyweight champion on July 4 1979.


John Tate outpointed Gerrie Coetzee over 15 rounds at the Loftus Versfeld rugby stadium in Pretoria on October 20 1979 to win the vacant WBA title. Tate held the title for only five months and 11 days.

The only man who won a world heavyweight title on a foul was Max Schmeling of Germany. He became champion on June 12 1930 when referee Jim Crowley disqualified Jack Sharkey for a low blow in the fourth round.

The first heavyweight championship fight to end in a draw was between Jack Johnson and Battling Jim Johnson in Paris on December 19 1913. The referee declared it a draw when Johnson, the champion, claimed he had broken one of his arms. Mike Weaver and Michael Dokes drew over 15 rounds in Las Vegas on May 20 1983 when they fought for the WBA title.

Jersey Joe Walcott and Ezzard Charles fought each other four times for the heavyweight championship. Charles won on points on June 22 1949 to win the vacant title. He retained it in a return bout on March 7 1951. On July 18 the same year Walcott knocked out Charles in the seventh round in Pittsburgh. Walcott won their fourth bout, on June 5 1952, on points to retain the title.