[Criteria: Fighter theoretically enters weight category of choice]
HEAVYWEIGHTS 196lbs and above: p1 Muhammad Ali p14 George Foreman p14 Joe Frazier p17 Mike Tyson p20 Larry Holmes p23 Joe Louis p24 Sonny Liston p23 Lennox Lewis p28 Jack Johnson p29 Earnie Shavers p29 Riddick Bowe p30 Tyson Fury p31 Deontay Wilder p32 Ken Norton p34 Tim Witherspoon p35 Frank Bruno p36 George Chuvalo
[9.1] MUHAMMAD ALI 61-56(37)-5: Daily Telegraph - Sammy Davis junior - George Foreman - Bob Mee - Thomas Hauser - Facing Ali 2009 - Sugar Ray Leonard - Bert Randolph Sugar - Larry Holmes - Jim Murray - Floyd Patterson - Becoming Muhammad Ali TV - Howard Bingham - Angelo Dundee - Sporting Greats TV - Wladimir Klitschko - David Remnick - Marvin Dunne - Harry Carpenter - Ferdie Pacheco - Hall of Fame: Tearjerkers TV - Steve Bunce - Guardian online - When Ali Came to Britain TV - Ali's Dozen TV - Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight 2013 - Ali 2001 - I Am Ali 2014 - Peter Axthelm - Jose Torres - Ali: The Mission TV - What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali TV - Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes TV - Muhammad Ali: A Life in Ten Pictures TV - Blood Brothers: Malcom X & Muhammad Ali - Frank Skinner on Muhammad Ali TV - Martin Luther King - Muhammad Ali -
Muhammad Ali has been all things to all men; the athlete of the millennium, civil rights campaigner, puck in a velvet robe, conscience of America, heroin to people of every race, every nationality, and every religion. Millions of words have been penned in his honour, yet no-one has succeeded in describing Ali better than Ali himself, ‘People don’t realise what they had till it’s gone …’
An illiterate black man from Louisville, Kentucky, Ali transcended the ring to become the most recognisable man on the planet. His first and feet were quick but his tongue was even quicker, delivering a rapid-fire collection of poems, one-liners and brash predictions …
‘Man, did we have fun,’ recalls Dundee … ‘Muhammad was the happiest human being on this earth – still is. An absolute joy to be with. Most special man that ever was born.’ The Telegraph article Robert Philip, ‘The People’s Champ with a heart of gold’
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Heavyweight champion of the world to me – Muhammad Ali. Sammy Davis junior
Muhammad Ali was the greatest man to ever box. He was the greatest man to do an interview. He was the greatest man to do about anything that’s ever been done. George Foreman
Muhammad Ali was the greatest celebrity ever ... What a celebrity! What a fighter! George Foreman
When I was a little boy, a teenager, they would say, ‘Cassius Clay is going to be on television!’ I didn’t have a television. I’d run for miles to find a television. And he’d say: ‘I’m pretty! I’m beautiful.’ And everybody would look: He’s pretty! He’s beautiful! Oh what a wonderful treat his was ... I am still in awe of him. George Foreman
‘Just lost a fight, that’s all,’ he said after Joe Frazier had beaten him in Madison Square Garden a month after Bob Dylan's 30th birthday. ‘There are more important things to worry about in life. Probably be a better man for it. News don’t last long.’ Bob Mee, Simply a Hero [a contrary dissenting witness describes Ali’s post-fight response in not so gracious terms]
And always that personality shone through. ibid.
Ali was the best in an era of special heavyweights. ibid.
The man made mistakes, no doubt he used and abused his share of people like everyone else, but what we have now is a man who has retained his dignity. ibid.
Ali was an exceptional athlete, a miracle worker in the toughest sporting activity of them all, a man whose longevity appeared to contain some kind of eternal youth. And, please let no one ever forget it, he was a man of extraordinary bravery. ibid.
And when he should have been resting from a career that had probably already harmed his body beyond repair, they fed him with weight reducing drugs and sent him out to face Larry Holmes. ibid.
‘That’s all I am – a man.’
A man, yes. But a man who has made a whole generation, maybe more, better for his living. ibid.
Muhammad and Lonnie have been married since 1986, but their relationship dates back to 1962, when Lonnie’s family moved into a house across the street from Mr and Mrs Clay. Thomas Hauser, A Quiet Wedding
‘He was kind, gentle, handsome, terribly sure of himself. I thought he was the most magnificent person in the world. Around the time I was 17, I developed an enormous crush. And this might sound strange, but I knew at 17 that someday I’d marry Muhammad.’ ibid. Lonnie
Both of his eyes were at the top of his head. Facing Ali, Henry Cooper, 2009
I thought Liston was going to tear him apart. ibid. George Chuvalo
I don’t believe in forced integration. ibid. Muhammad
‘Turning my back on Malcolm X was one of the mistakes that I regret most in life.’ ibid.
‘I didn’t want to be a leader. I just wanted to be free.’ ibid.
He was very very quick. ibid. George Chuvalo
Either free me or put me in jail because I’m going to go on like I am, taking my stand. ibid. Muhammad
I was determined to be the one nigger that the white man didn’t get. ibid.
It’s bad to predict against me. ibid.
Imagine your jaw being broken and you have to go another ten rounds. ibid.
You think the world was shocked when Nixon resigned? Wait till I whup Foreman’s behind. ibid.
Ali v Foreman: What a Hollywood ending. ibid. George Chuvalo
Muhammad Ali was a god, an idol and an icon. He was boxing. Any kid that had the opportunity to talk to Ali, to get advice from Muhammad Ali, was privileged. He’s always given me time to ask questions, although I was so in awe that I didn’t ask questions. Sugar Ray Leonard
He is one of the few who has touched everybody ... I don’t think there has ever been a man who has had in the last hundred years such a presence as Muhammad Ali for the world ... The most gregarious person in the history of the universe. Bert Randolph Sugar
He kept us young for so long. Bert Randolph Sugar
If everyone was like him in the world, there would be no problems in the world. Larry Holmes
I’d like to borrow his body for just forty-eight hours – there are three guys I’d like to beat up, and four women I’d like to make love to. Jim Murray, cited Robert Lipsyte ‘Sportsworld: An American Dreamland’, 1975
Clay is so young and has been misled by the wrong people ... He might as well have joined the Ku Klux Klan. Floyd Patterson, cited Daily Telegraph 15th January 2002
Cassius Clay was one of two sons born to what was considered to be a middle-class black family in Louisville, Kentucky. His father was a fairly loud bombastic sometimes bitter man; drank to excess. It was not a happy home. Inside a boxing ring that was the one place where he could control his own environment. It was as though God was telling him what to do ... Despite having won the gold medal, there are still restaurants he can’t go in. Becoming Muhammad Ali, History 2013
After the victory then Cassius goes to New York. He is escorted around Harlem by the notorious Malcolm X. And the media has a field day. Speculation is hurling in Harlem that Malcolm X any day now is going to be out of the Nation of Islam. Malcolm X learns that Elijah Mohammad has impregnated several of his secretaries. And he felt deeply betrayed – he felt betrayed as a man, he felt betrayed religiously and ethically and morally by the man he had given his whole heart and trust to. And so he questioned everything including the whole creed of the Nation of Islam and the hypocrisy of it. There were two men who above all others he wanted to pull out of the Nation of Islam with him. One was Louis X, who was the minister in Boston today known as Louis Farrakan. But the second person he wanted was Cassius Clay. ibid.
One of the main things why he began boxing was because someone stole his bicycle in Louisville. Howard Bingham, interview Focus: Muhammad Ali
Loved people. Loved babies. Loved to do. Loved to talk. ibid.
He [Muhammad Ali] was a photographer’s dream. ibid.