On this day in 1980: Muhammad Ali loses final world heavyweight title fight

The three-time world heavyweight champion had sparred with Larry Holmes for several years.

By Press Association Published: 2 October 2020 - 5.00am

UK

World

Boxing

Muhammad Ali fought for the world heavyweight title for the last time on October 2 in 1980 and, although it was not the ‘Last Hurrah’ it was deemed, he was unable to enjoy one last glory night against Larry Holmes.

The former undisputed champion was back in the ring for the first time in two years and with the WBC and vacant The Ring heavyweight title on the line.

Ali had bowed out of the sport in 1978 after winning his rematch with Leon Spinks in New Orleans, but wanted to show he could still “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” in his 25th world heavyweight title fight.

A statue of Muhammad Ali at the Muhammad Ali exhibition at O2 Arena
A statue of Muhammad Ali at the Muhammad Ali exhibition at O2 Arena (Anthony Devlin/PA)

It would prove a step too far though, with old sparring partner Holmes able to use all his experience against ‘the Greatest’ to dominate before it was stopped after the 10th.

Angelo Dundee, Ali’s trainer, brought the bout to an end, but faced criticism along with his team for even going ahead with the clash after Mayo Clinic had to exam the then-38-year-old before he was granted a boxing licence.

This would not be the finale for the three-time lineal heavyweight champion after he returned a year later but suffered another defeat, this time to Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas.

It meant Ali finished with a record of 56 victories and five losses and yet his legacy as the greatest of all time could not be diminished.

After he won gold at the 1960 Summer Olympics aged 18, the Kentucky boxer stunned Sonny Liston four years later to clinch his first world heavyweight title before his boxing career was halted after he opposed to fighting in the Vietnam War.

When he resumed his career at the age of 28, Ali became the undisputed world champion twice more and was involved in memorable bouts like the ‘Thriller in Manila’ and the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ to ensure he will go down as arguably the greatest of all time.

Following his eventual retirement in 1981, one of the biggest personalities in sport carried on fighting outside the ring to raise awareness for people’s rights and donated money to various charities.

He died aged 74 on June 2, 2016 from septic shock after a four-decade battle with Parkinson’s.