Ali's Missing Opponent
December 18, 2009 6:52 AM   Subscribe

 
Single-link post for what should be fairly obvious reasons.
posted by Malor at 6:54 AM on December 18, 2009


Sweet.
posted by bwg at 7:02 AM on December 18, 2009


Great read. What kind of scam involves a "pencil and a belt"?
posted by Burhanistan at 7:11 AM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


nice read...well written....
posted by HuronBob at 7:20 AM on December 18, 2009


Some of the best sports writing I've read in the past few years has been on ESPN.com. While I can't remember the last time I tuned into the network, their web page is a go-to site for me. And lest we forget, they gave HST his last assignment...
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:34 AM on December 18, 2009


That's a great piece of writing. And I would definitely like to know about the pencil-and-a-belt hustle. Amazing (and sad), too, how many of Ali's opponents--and maybe this is generally true for boxers--met unpleasant ends.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:00 AM on December 18, 2009


What a great read; Ali has always been a personal hero to me. The bad ends for all the boxers listed at the end of the article is stunning - heavyweight boxing is definitely an incredibly dangerous undertaking.

I hope Sweet Jimmy found peace.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:17 AM on December 18, 2009


The sweet science, Sweet Jimmy and so many bitter ends.
posted by Abiezer at 8:18 AM on December 18, 2009


Robinson fought Cassius Clay on February 7, 1961, at the Miami Beach Convention Center (where Clay later fought Sonny Liston; Clay changed his name shortly after the Liston fight).

Stephen Singer's collection of Ali memorabilia includes autographs of all of the boxers that fought Ali, except Robinson.

The article concludes with a roundup of the fates of some of Ali's opponents. "Shot through the heart with a high-powered rifle outside a Reno whorehouse" wasn't the most depressing one.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:29 AM on December 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hmm, kirkaracha, maybe I should have tracked down more about Singer. It seemed like it was really about Robinson, and clearly there weren't going to be much Web information on him.

Thanks for doing that!
posted by Malor at 8:48 AM on December 18, 2009


I'd like to think Sweet Jimmy lives. Maybe his brother from Kansas City did come and get him. Maybe he moved up north to Tampa. If nothing else he lives on the pages of ESPN.com and in my mind.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:04 AM on December 18, 2009


eh, this post is okay. don't you have any poignant and emotional touching stories to share, though? this light stuff doesn't do it for me.
posted by shmegegge at 9:13 AM on December 18, 2009


I think the "pencil & belt" hustle is a variation on "Fast and Loose."
posted by Floydd at 9:39 AM on December 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Great article. I know nothing about boxing, and am generally not interested, but this story really caught me. Maybe part of it is that I am in South Florida this winter. This place really is the kind of place a person could get lost in plain sight.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 9:47 AM on December 18, 2009


Great article, but... Ali only ever fought 50 guys? Really? That's the most astounding fact in the whole piece, coming from somebody that doesn't really know much about boxing.

I'm not doubting, just marvelling. If you asked me how many men a championship boxer fights in a career, I'd say "thousands," be surprised at "hundreds," and... 50? Wow.
posted by Shepherd at 10:00 AM on December 18, 2009


Thanks for linking to that, Malor, it was a good read. I thought the writing was very effective. For all the time and research the writer put into the story, it could have easily come off as heavy handed and lugubrious, but I thought it struck the right balance.
posted by mosk at 10:14 AM on December 18, 2009


That was a fantasatic (and depressing) read. Thanks, Malor.
posted by kryptondog at 11:05 AM on December 18, 2009


Amazing read.
posted by humannaire at 11:07 AM on December 18, 2009


Great article. Thanks for posting it.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:30 AM on December 18, 2009


Singer asked Google Answers in 2002 to no avail.

"Great article, but... Ali only ever fought 50 guys? Really? That's the most astounding fact in the whole piece, coming from somebody that doesn't really know much about boxing."

Ali had 61 bouts, some were repeated opponents though like Norton and Frazier. Most professional boxers do only fight 50 or so fights professionally. For those who fight as an amateur also (which is still a requirement for Olympic boxing), they may fight more. Ali, as Cassius Clay, was 100-5 in amateur bouts. Ali also lost a couple years when he was banned due to evading the draft, which was overturned by the Supreme Court.

See Ali's record at BoxRec, the "IMDb" of Boxing.
posted by ALongDecember at 11:58 AM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


That was excellent. Thanks.
posted by tkchrist at 12:58 PM on December 18, 2009


I've never cared for boxing in the least but a couple of months ago I was at the Vancouver Film Festival and the movie I wanted to see was hopelessly sold out. That night was the premiere of Facing Ali, which was even more hopelessly sold out, but while waiting in line for our movie my friend and I were offered tickets to that from a lady who had to leave ... I have to say that was one amazing movie. The mark of a good documentary is when I have no interested in the subject matter, yet it still holds my attention from start to finish. A fascinating glimpse into the lives and minds of 10 or so of the guys who fought Ali over the years.

I don't know if it was just Canadian pride but my favorite turned out to be George Chuvalo who fought Ali in Toronto. ("After the fight, Ali, he went to the hospital. My, I went dancing with my wife....")
posted by mannequito at 1:00 PM on December 18, 2009


Great article, but... Ali only ever fought 50 guys? Really? That's the most astounding fact in the whole piece, coming from somebody that doesn't really know much about boxing.

I'm not doubting, just marvelling. If you asked me how many men a championship boxer fights in a career, I'd say "thousands," be surprised at "hundreds," and... 50? Wow.
"Thousands"? Really?

Over a twenty year career - which is a long career - "thousands" of fights would be a minimum of a hundred fights a year, or about two fights a week. You think professional boxers are getting their head punched repeatedly by skilled, strong men who are intent on punching it twice a week for twenty years?

Really?
posted by Flunkie at 1:10 PM on December 18, 2009


"Thousands"? Really?

Roberto Duran, who fought competitively until he was 50, had 119 professional fights. Although I can't find the actual stats (and knowing he was an extremely active club fighter), I'd bet he fought close to a thousand fights. Not typical, though, I know.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:31 PM on December 18, 2009


Back in the heyday of boxing it wasn't uncommon for a pro fighter to have hundreds of fights. Sugar Ray Robinson, for example, had 200 pro fights from 1940 to 1965, and Jake Lamotta had 106 fights from 1941 to 1954. By contrast, once we get to the 70's guys like Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard (only 40 pro fights with championships in 3 weight classes) had become such precious commodities that promoters didn't want to risk them unless it was for a big purse.
posted by smartyboots at 2:25 PM on December 18, 2009


But back to the topic - what a great article! It seems like both those guys (Jim Robinson and Willie Gullatt) were tomato cans brought in to warm the 18 year old Clay up before unleashing him on the world. At that point he'd already won an Olympic gold medal, so it's not like his trainers didn't know he was good. I'm glad Sweet Jimmy got a few free drinks out of the deal.
posted by smartyboots at 2:46 PM on December 18, 2009


Thanks for doing that!
It was easy-peasy since I just lifted my comment from a SportsFilter post I did the other day. [NOT PLAGIARISTIST]

posted by kirkaracha at 2:57 PM on December 18, 2009


What a sad and moving article. Poor guy never got the remaining 13 minutes and 26 seconds of fame that life promised him. At least people in Overtown kinda remembered him, kinda knew he once crossed paths with celebrity ... That may be more recognition than many people get, but it's still frightening to think how easy it is to slip through the cracks of society, how thin the line is between "someone" and "nobody".
posted by Quietgal at 6:08 PM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


This story is eerily similar to the 1997 L.A. Times article by J.R. Moehringer.

The Times story was (very) loosely followed for the film Resurrecting The Champ starring Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett.
posted by makabampow at 7:14 PM on December 18, 2009


What a moving story and well written.
posted by blue shadows at 9:26 PM on December 18, 2009


Ali had 61 bouts, some were repeated opponents though like Norton and Frazier. Most professional boxers do only fight 50 or so fights professionally. For those who fight as an amateur also (which is still a requirement for Olympic boxing), they may fight more. Ali, as Cassius Clay, was 100-5 in amateur bouts. Ali also lost a couple years when he was banned due to evading the draft, which was overturned by the Supreme Court.

Well... yeah. I'm not arguing these facts, just saying that from a total boxing ignoramus, which I am, the relative scarcity of fights is kind of amazing. I'll be the first to admit I'm ignorant about it, which I absolutely am, so I kind of always had the idea (doubtless from only knowing about boxing from movies and TV shows) that there were a couple of fresh opponents a week, not a few per month if that.

This was more of a thank you for the illumination than any kind of doubtful statement. Sorry if I wasn't as clear as I should have been on that.
posted by Shepherd at 10:34 PM on December 18, 2009


Excellent article, thanks for posting it.
posted by essexjan at 1:35 AM on December 19, 2009


Ali also lost a couple years when he was banned due to evading the draft, which was overturned by the Supreme Court.

ALongDecember, I believe "resisting the draft" would be more appropriate for The Greatest. He never evaded anything but jabs and hooks, as far as I know. Met the US government face-on in its own ring, and won that one, too.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:11 AM on December 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


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