14
Jun
09

Muhammad Ali 2 1/2 years in exile cost him his legs.

"The Greatest" Muhammad Ali

"The Greatest" Muhammad Ali

After fighting Zora Folley in March 1967, Ali did not fight again for 3 1/2 years. He was stripped of his championship title, his passport taken; all his boxing licenses were cancelled. He lost an initial court battle and was facing a 5-year prison term. Ali made money during his exile by speaking at colleges. He was the first national figure to speak out against the war in Vietnam. In 1970, after a 3 1/2 year layoff, and with the mood of the country changing, Ali staged his comeback, first against Jerry Quarry in Atlanta, then Oscar Bonavena at Madison Square Garden, then for what was billed as, “The Fight of the Century,” his first match against undefeated champ, Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971.

Ali fought valiantly, but lost. The 2 and a half year exile had cost Ali his legs. He could no longer dance. He lost that night in the Garden, but months later he won his biggest fight, the Supreme Court reversed his conviction and upheld his conscientious objector claim. Ali was free of the specter of jail, and free to travel to box anywhere in the world. Several matches followed, including an unexpected loss to ex-Marine, Ken Norton; a win in their next bout; an uninspired win against Joe Frazier. But these matches were but window dressing for the biggest match of Ali’s career: The Rumble In the Jungle. George Foreman was a fearsome champ. He had thunder and destruction in both hands. He had easily knocked out Ken Norton and had lifted Frazier off the mat with one blow.

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