Here’s what happened.
Few professional boxers, if any, have generated more admiration and controversy during their careers than Muhammad Ali. In 1967, Ali publicly refused to comply with his selective service (draft) order for the U.S. Armed Services, on grounds of religious and conscientious objection. He was fined $10,000 and convicted to five years in federal prison. He was also stripped of his boxing license, as well as the title that was recognized by all the established boxing authorities: Heavyweight Champion of the World.
Ali’s appeal of his conviction would go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Supported by the intervention of Leroy R. Johnson, a representative from Georgia’s General Assembly, Ali was able to secure a boxing license in 1970 while he awaited the High Court’s ruling. Ali’s comeback campaign began at Atlanta Municipal Auditorium on October 26, 1970, in a fight against a determined opponent: Jerry Quarry.
Here’s why it mattered then.
Cassius Marcellus Clay took an impressive career as a Golden Gloves light heavyweight champion to the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy and returned with a gold medal. By the time he won the heavyweight title from Charles “Sonny” Liston in 1964, he had secretly joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name. He was also already displaying the pre-fight theatrics that would become legendary.
Ali’s title vacancy had been filled by Joseph William “Smoking Joe” Frazier. He would have to face Frazier to regain it. But first he would have to beat Quarry, who had already lost to Frazier.
Here’s why it matters now.
Fighting was in Jerry Quarry’s blood; boxers in his family included father Jack and brothers Mike and Robert. But it can also be said that blood was in Quarry’s fighting. He lost the title fight in 1969 against Frazier by Technical Knock-Out (TKO), after his corner team failed to stop the bleeding from punch-induced cuts around his eyes.
Quarry would lose to Ali in the same manner, but not before his furious assault forced Ali to retreat to the ropes. Instead of using his signature nimble fighting style (popularly described as “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”), Ali bided his time defensively. He used similar tactics in 1975 to wrest the title from the man who had taken it from Frazier: George Edward Foreman.
Here’s the latest update . . .
Jerry Quarry joins Ali, Foreman, and Frazier as a boxing legend, but not as a champion. Like many ex-fighters, including his brothers, the profession took a tragic toll on his body. Quarry died from effects of pugilistic dementia in 1999.
Ali has suffered from Parkinson’s disease since 1984. But that did not stop him from lighting the Olympic Cauldron at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.
. . . And here’s an interesting fact!
An Ali faced a Frazier in the ring four times. The fourth match involved daughters of the former champions. Laila Ali won an 8-round decision over Jaqui Frazier-Lyde on June 8, 2001.