Back in the RingBy 1970, the general American public had become dissatisfied with the Vietnam War and was thus easing their anger against Muhammad Ali. This change in public opinion meant Muhammad Ali was able to rejoin boxing.
After participating in an exhibition match on September 2, 1970, Muhammad Ali fought in his first real comeback bout on October 26, 1970 against Jerry Quarry in Atlanta, Georgia. During the fight, Muhammad Ali appeared slower than he used to be; yet before the start of the fourth round, Quarry's manager threw in the towel. Ali was back and he wanted to reclaim his heavyweight title.
The Fight of the Century: Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier (1971)On March 8, 1971, Muhammad Ali got his chance to win back the heavyweight title. Ali was to fight Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden. This fight, billed as "the Fight of the Century," was viewed in 35 countries around the world and was the first fight Ali used his "rope-a-dope" technique. (Ali's rope-a-dope technique was when Ali leaned himself on the ropes and protected himself while he let his opponent hit him repeatedly. The intention was to quickly tire out his opponent.)
Although Muhammad Ali did well in a few of the rounds, in many others he was pounded by Frazier. The fight went the full 15 rounds, with both fighters still standing at the end. The fight was unanimously awarded to Frazier. Ali had lost his first professional fight and had officially lost the heavyweight title.
Shortly after Muhammad Ali had lost this fight with Frazier, Ali won a different kind of fight. Ali's appeals against his draft evasion conviction had gone all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, who unanimously reversed the lower court's decision on June 28, 1971. Ali had been exonerated.
The Rumble in the Jungle: Muhammad Ali vs. George ForemanOn October 30, 1974, Muhammad Ali had another chance at the championship title. In the time since Ali lost to Frazier in 1971, Frazier himself had lost his championship title to George Foreman. Although Ali had won a rematch against Frazier in 1974, Ali was much slower and older than he used to be and was not expected to have a chance against Foreman. Many considered Foreman to be unbeatable.
The bout was held in Kinshasa, Zaire and was thus billed as "the Rumble in the Jungle." Once again, Ali used his rope-a-dope strategy - this time with much more success. Ali was able to tire out Foreman so much that by the eighth round, Muhammad Ali knocked Foreman out. For the second time, Muhammad Ali had become the heavyweight champion of the world.
Thrilla in Manila: Muhammad Ali vs. Joe FrazierJoe Frazier really did not like Muhammad Ali. As part of the antics before their fights, Ali had called Frazier an "Uncle Tom" and a gorilla, among other bad names. Ali's comments greatly angered Frazier.
Their third match against each other was held on October 1, 1975 and called "Thrilla in Manila" because it was held in Manila, Philippines. The fight was brutal. Both Ali and Frazier hit hard. Both were determined to win. By the time the bell for the 15th round was rung, Frazier's eyes were swollen nearly shut; his manager wouldn't let him continue. Ali won the fight, but he himself was badly hurt as well.
Both Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier fought so hard and so well, that many consider this fight to be the greatest boxing fight in history.
Winning the Championship Title a Third TimeAfter the Frazier fight in 1975, Muhammad Ali announced his retirement. This, however, did not last long as it was just too easy to pick up a million dollars here or there by fighting one more bout. Ali did not take these fights very seriously and became lax on his training. On February 15, 1978, Muhammad Ali was extremely surprised when novice boxer Leon Spinks beat him. The bout had gone all 15 rounds, but Spinks had dominated the match. The judges awarded the fight - and the championship title - to Spinks.
Ali was furious and wanted a rematch. Spinks obliged. While Ali worked diligently to train for their rematch, Spinks did not. The fight did go the full 15 rounds again, but this time, Ali was the obvious winner. Not only did Ali win back the heavyweight champion title, he became the first person in history to win it three times.
Retirement and Parkinson's SyndromeAfter the Spinks fight, Ali retired on June 26, 1979. He did fight Larry Holmes in 1980 and Trevor Berbick in 1981 but lost both fights. The fights were embarrassing; it was obvious that Ali should stop boxing.
Muhammad Ali had been the greatest heavyweight boxer in the world three times. In his professional career, Ali had won 56 bouts and lost only five. Of the 56 wins, 37 of them were by knockout. Unfortunately, all of these fights took a toll on Muhammad Ali's body.
After suffering increasingly slurred speech, shaking hands, and over-tiredness, Muhammad Ali was hospitalized in September 1984 to determine the cause. His doctors diagnosed Ali with Parkinson's syndrome, a degenerative condition that results in decreased control over speech and motor skills.
After being out of the limelight for more than a decade, Muhammad Ali was asked to light the Olympic flame during the Opening Ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Ali moved slowly and his hands shook; yet his performance brought tears to many who watched the Olympic lighting.
Since then, Ali has worked tirelessly to helping charities around the world. He also spends a lot of time signing autographs. He remains a hero and icon of the 20th century.