10) Ali vs. Wepner (1975): In the bout that inspired Sylvester Stallone to create ‘Rocky’, Ali defended his title against a hand-picked unknown — Chuck Wepner — and nearly lost. Wepner’s ability to last 15 rounds against the champ is the stuff of legend.
9) Ali vs. Williams (1966): This lesser-known bout is considered Ali’s most technically flawless. He floored his opponent three times in just the second round. And it was all over by the first minute of the third.
8) Ali vs. Liston II (1965): One of the most unforgettable sports photos of all time emerged from one of the shortest heavyweight bouts ever. Ali knocked out Sonny Liston just a few minutes into the first round. Rumor has Liston threw the fight.
7) Ali vs. Shavers (1977): Ali called Earnie Shavers the hardest puncher he ever faced. “Earnie hit me so hard, it shook my kinfolk back in Africa,” Ali said. Ali narrowly won this 15-rounder but he was never the same fighter afterwards.
6) Ali vs. Spinks II (1978): At the age of 36, Ali managed to win the heavyweight title for a historic third time (just seven months after losing it) against his much younger opponent Leon Spinks.
5) Ali vs. Terrell (1967): When Ali faced Ernie Terrell, his opponent taunted him by refusing to recognize his name change (calling the champ ‘Cassius Clay’). Ali got revenge in the ring yelling ‘What’s my name?’ as he defeated Terrell.
4) Ali vs. Liston I (1964): The fight that made Ali a national icon. Then-Cassius Clay, Ali was viewed as a loudmouth longshot to beat established champ Sonny Liston. Ali ‘shook up the world’ with his 7th round victory.
3) ‘Thrilla in Manila’: Ali vs. Frazier III (1975): The most brutal fight of Ali’s career nearly killed both him and his fierce opponent — Joe Frazier. Ali’s racially insensitive attacks on the late Frazier haven’t aged as well as the epic finale of their rivalry.
2) Ali vs. Frazier I (1971): Ironically, one of Ali’s greatest fights is one he lost. Billed the ‘Fight of the Century’ — it was the beginning of series of clashes with Ali’s most formidable foe, the softer spoken but hard hitting Joe Frazier. Ali suffered is first-ever knockout in this bout.
1) ‘Rumble in the Jungle’: Ali vs. Foreman (1974): Ali’s most surprising and inspiring victory came against the imposing George Foreman in Zaire. A huge underdog, Ali employed a ‘rope-a-dope’ strategy to exhaust the stronger Foreman — his win cemented his legendary status for all time.
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The greatest boxer of all time — Muhammad Ali — turns 71 today. Besides being a sports legend, Ali is considered a civil rights and cultural icon. His boxing career spanned three decades and certainly had its share of ups and downs. Still, no fighter’s heights were as compelling as Ali’s. Check out our list of the top 10 greatest bouts of his career in the slideshow below.