There are two things you need to know about Muhammad Ali. The first is that he was one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time, having beaten some of the most formidable pugilists of his era. The second is that he was, allegedly, a massive coward. In 1977, Muhammad Ali was in the twilight of his career, and he was coming off a win against the relatively unknown Leon Spinks. His next opponent was projected to be Larry Holmes, who was, at the time, the heavyweight champion of the world. But rumors had been swirling for years that Ali was terrified of Holmes, and that he had postponed the bout in order to avoid fighting him.
Muhammad Ali was a true boxing legend, but did he purposely lose his title fight to Leon Spinks in 1978? That’s the question many of us were scratching our heads at when we heard the rumor. The fight was a shocker in the fact that Ali, who was the heavyweight champion, had never lost his title in a fight, so it seemed highly unlikely that he would suddenly lose it in his next fight; but that’s exactly what happened. As a result, many of us were left wondering what happened.
It has long been a source of frustration for the boxing community that, on June 9, 1978, Muhammad Ali defeated Leon Spinks in a match in which Spinks was the reigning world heavyweight champion. There was no reason that Ali, who was a 42-year-old, should have been able to beat a man who was only 28, and who had been considered the world’s strongest boxer at least since defeating Muhammad Ali (at that time known as Cassius Clay) in February of that same year. But Ali did win, and many in the boxing community wondered if there was foul play involved.
Muhammad Ali is considered by many to be the greatest heavyweight in the history of boxing, some even calling him the greatest fighter the world has ever seen. Ali is the first man to win the heavyweight championship three times. An interesting conspiracy theory involving Ali, Leon Spinks and Ken Norton suggests that this would have been done on purpose. Let’s take the plunge, huh?
Muhammad Ali lost the world heavyweight title to Leon Spinks in February 1978
. COMPARED TO: Why there was no rematch between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman after the Rumble in the Jungle Before we get to the conspiracy, let’s look at the actual events that gave rise to this particular theory. Prior to his fight with Leon Spinks in February 1978, Muhammad Ali defended the WBA and WBC heavyweight titles ten times in a row after winning them from George Foreman in the famous Rumble in Jungle fight in Zaire in October 1974. During this time he fought his third fights against Joe Frazier and Ken Norton (more on that fight later) and of course won them both, but Ali didn’t look good in his last few fights before the Spinks fight and some were even calling for The Greatest to retire. Spinks was a surprising opponent for Ali, as the 24-year-old had fought just seven matches since winning the light heavyweight gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. Spinks was a 10-1 underdog before fighting Ali, who clearly thought the fight would be easy because he wasn’t at his best. Ali tried the rope-a-dope strategy he had used in Zaire against Foreman, but his elderly body came under fire from the young Spinks, who beat him for 15 rounds. It’s not that Ali didn’t fight back, but he just didn’t have the strength and lost by split decision which remains one of the biggest defeats in heavyweight history. To date, Leon Spinks holds the record for the fastest heavyweight title since turning professional.
Conspiracy theory that Muhammad Ali lost the title on purpose to avoid fighting Ken Norton for the fourth time
. And that’s where Ken Norton comes in. After Muhammad Ali defeated Ernie Shavers in September 1977, the WBC wanted him to take on the winner of the elimination fight between Norton and Jimmy Young in November, which Norton won by split decision. Ali thus verbally declares that he will meet Norton a fourth time, but only after Norton has fought Leon Spinks. So the conspiracy theory is that Ali never wanted to fight Norton again and gave up the fight against Spinks so he could come back for a rematch, retake his title, which would make him the first three-time world heavyweight champion, and then retire at the top. Ali never made it a secret that Norton was one of the toughest opponents he ever faced. Although Ali won two of the three fights, some, including George Foreman, believe Norton won all three. In their first fight in March 1973, Norton broke Ali’s jaw in the first round and won via split decision. They met again in September of that year, and Norton again gave Ali all he could handle, but lost by split decision after a flurry of punches from The Greatest tipped the scales in his favor. Their third fight, in September 1976 at Yankee Stadium, was highly controversial, as many felt Norton had done more than enough to take the title from Ali, as he threw more punches and was much more accurate. But Ali wins by unanimous decision, prompting a wave of boos from the Bronx. This is where theory comes in: Some think Ali didn’t want another fight with Norton, so according to these theorists, he refused to fight Spinks.
Leon Spinks was stripped of the WBC title for refusing to fight Ken Norton, and he lost his WBA belt to the bigger.
Muhammad Ali vs. Leon Spinks | Getty Images Following his defeat to Muhammad Ali, Leon Spinks was invited by the WBC to defend the title against Ken Norton, which Ali planned to do. But Spinks refused and was stripped of the belt, which was then awarded to Norton, who quickly lost it to Larry Holmes in June 1978. Spinks and Ali met in September 1978 at the Louisiana Superdome Arena in New Orleans to fight for the WBA title. Ali, who was in much better shape for the rematch, dominated the fight, winning by unanimous decision and becoming the first three-time heavyweight champion in history. A few months later he resigned, giving rise to a conspiracy theory. Personally, I don’t believe any of this. But conspiracy theories are always fun, aren’t they? Similarly, Muhammad Ali retired in 1980 to fight Larry Holmes, then met Trevor Berbick in 1981 in what should have been his last fight. And is it really the case that the great ones defend themselves? combat files courtesy of BoxRec
Frequently Asked Questions
Why did Muhammad Ali lose his heavyweight title?
It is no secret that Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest fighters in the heavyweight division, retired from boxing in the late 70′s. What is a secret, however, is the reason why he retired. Many people believe that he was scared of fighting Larry Holmes, who was considered to be the next “champion” of the division. Ali has denied this claim many times, but it is still up for debate. Muhammad Ali may be regarded as one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time, but that doesn’t mean he was perfect. During the late 70s, Ali began to show signs of decline that made many question whether he was still as skilled as he had been in his prime. Among the many controversies surrounding Ali’s career was his unanimous decision to lose his heavyweight title to Leon Spinks in 1978. Although Ali was widely expected to win the fight, many fans (and some of his closest friends) suspected he intentionally threw the fight to protect his health.
What happened to Leon Spinks the boxer?
The night Muhammad Ali lost the world heavyweight championship to Leon Spinks remains one of the most memorable moments in the sport’s history. Although Ali is remembered as the “world’s most famous athlete” and boxing’s “greatest champion”, he can also be remembered as the man who lost the title to Leon Spinks for reasons that have never been fully explained. The time was February 15, 1978. The place was New Orleans. The sport was boxing—and the Heavyweight Championship of the World was on the line. Muhammad Ali, the man (many believed) that knocked out the greatest heavyweight champion of all time, Sonny Liston, was to put his title on the line against upstart Leon Spink, who had gone 27-0 to that point in his professional career. But, on the night of the fight, something strange happened. Muhammad Ali lay on the mat for a full minute after being hit with a quick jolt from Spinks. He rose to his feet and tip-toed around the ring, seemingly confused by his inability to counterpunch his opponent, until the ref finally
Who won Foreman vs Norton?
This text is sensitive. Click edit and regenerate for new copy. Before he was the Greatest, before he was Cassius Clay, before he was draft-dodging, and before he was taking a stand for black pride around the globe, he was simply known as the Louisville Lip. It is there that he met and trained with the legendary trainer, Angelo Dundee. It was also at that time that he competed in his first fight, which he lost to a young man named Tunney Hunsaker.
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