If only the one and only Muhammad Ali had come out when he should have, if only he had hung up his gloves when he should have. Right after George Foreman’s historic victory, which won him the title, it would have been a good time to go.
Or maybe after Manila Hell and Joe Frazier fight-three? Or, at the latest, after the very historic revenge victory over Leon Spinks which saw Ali become the very first Heavyweight King three times. But no, Ali came back, again, and he ended up losing.
After The Greatest did all they could in the ring becoming a three-time champion, it didn’t take long for Ali to push his luck too far. Ali had found another challenge: to become the first man to win the heavyweight crown four times!
Ali, emptied by taking thyroid pills, was an empty shell against Larry Holmes in October 1980 and he was arrested for the only time in his professional career. But if Ali’s fight with Holmes was one too many, the 39-year-old was able to make it TWO too many FIGHTS. 40 years ago today, Ali, in need of money and fame, returned to face “a top contender”. Enter Trevor Berbick.
Ali, incredibly, still had the ambition to realize his ambition of quadruple champion. If he could defeat Berbick, a heavy solid, if nothing too spectacular, Ali would have his chance; at least that’s what he thought.
All these years later, when we know the total and horrific price Ali paid for fighting for too long, the idea that he would have had another fight if he had beaten Berbick is frightening.
Ali’s quality of life was poor in the 1990s and 2000s, until his death in 2016. If Ali’s brain had been put through another fight, it would have been an even worse existence for the man whose everyone always thought he would go ahead.
Against Berbick, Ali weighed 236 career pounds, his body was soft and plump. But at least Ali was able to retaliate against Berbick; it was something he was unable to do against Holmes. And during the fight in Nassau, Bahamas, Ali even managed to win a few of the ten rounds the fight was scheduled for.
Ali couldn’t dance the way he once could, but he made an effort to get on his toes and throw a few punches. There was no snap or sting on Ali’s shots – he could no longer float like a butterfly or sting like a bee, but against the physically strong but heavy 26-year-old Jamaica Ali could hear the final bell – the bell used for combat being a cow bell, as no standard bell was available.
In fact, the whole show was something of a farce; with mediocre ticket sales and the undercard boxers all having to share the same locker room. It was not a way for the best heavyweight boxer of all to come out. But well, well, it was over. Ali had fought his last fight. He would no longer put his health, even his life, on the line. To this day, Ali’s last two fights have pissed off his fans. It could have been an almost perfect career: three-time champion, three losses but each of them got revenge – Ali bade him farewell with a satisfied smile on his face. Instead, Ali ended up leaving such a sad note.
As for Berbick, his life came to a most horrific end, as he was shockingly murdered by his nephew and an accomplice; his body found in the grounds of his own church. Sad is not the word here.