On November 14th 1966 Muhammad Ali faced Cleveland Williams at the Houston Astrodome in Texas, USA. At the time, Muhammad Ali vs Cleveland Williams wasn’t especially a massive fight, sure every fight Ali had was big news, but this wasn’t a Sonny Liston – not any more anyhow. The Williams of yesteryear was actually a formidable opponent, he even gave Sonny Liston everything he could handle in their first fight and Williams himself, known as Big Cat, was a very hard puncher, something Liston himself even testified to, especially with the broken nose he left Liston with…
But Williams had been injured in a shooting incident in 1964, stopped by the Police for speeding, he was shot in the stomach and the bullet remained lodged in his hip. By the time Williams had returned to boxing from the injury, he not the same fighter and taking on a 24yr old whilst you are in the end years of your career was always going to be a tough ask for now 33yr old Williams.
Ali knew Williams wasn’t the same fighter and was advised if he wanted to make an impression, the best strategy would be to get Williams out of there as quick as he could….
Muhammad Ali is widely recognised as being the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time, but it could be argued we never really got to see Ali at his best, Ali was just 25yrs old when he was banned from boxing for over 3 and a half years, at a time Ali was entering his absolute prime as a fighter, he was denied his right to fight and progress as a boxer. But on November 14th 1966, we saw a glimpse of just how good Ali could have become had he continued to box. Ali toyed with his opponent, revealing for the first time the famed Ali shuffle, where Ali would give a quick shuffle of his feet before unleashing a volley of punches. This was Ali at his very best, big, fast, strong and powerful, Ali looked the perfect fighting machine.
There have been many bigger fights in Ali’s career, the first fight with Sonny Liston where a 22yr old Cassius Clay first became heavyweight champion of the world, the fight of the century against Joe Frazier soon after Ali’s return to the ring in 1971, another fight with Joe Frazier the thrilla in manila was one of the most brutal heavyweight battles we have seen and of course possibly the most famous bout of them all, the rumble in the jungle against George Foreman where Ali regained the heavyweight crown, but there has never been a fight in my opinion where Ali looked better than he did on this night against Cleveland Williams.
The Ali who was on display that night would have beaten any other heavyweight in history, not only was Ali well nigh on impossible to touch – Williams landed just 10 punches in the fight, Ali still had all his speed but this time he had power behind those shots too. Williams would land just three rounds against Ali before the referee waved the fight off, the Big Cat was dropped multiple times by Ali and was saved by the bell in the earlier round after being knocked to the canvas.
If you want to know what the an ideal boxer looks like, the Muhammad Ali on this night in 1966 wouldn’t be too far from perfection, Ali was everything a heavyweight boxer should be, he was so good he was even able to add in a new trick with the Ali Shuffle…
Boxing Coach Strength and Conditioning Coach Boxing Author of: The Boxing Cheat Sheet - Your Ultimate Guide to Ring Survival Strength and Conditioning for Boxing - Work out Hits to get you Fighting Fit! Forgotten Legends of the Ring - Ten Past Masters of the Squared Circle *Any videos or images used on this site to support my articles that are copyrighted are used in accordance to the fair use act and are not my own - all credit is due to the respective owners. No copyright infringement intended.
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