Muhammad Ali’S Last Battle, 40 Years Ago Today, Is Much Less Remembered, All Of Which Ended In The Saddest Of Ways


Muhammad Ali gained notoriety in the 1960s by defeating Sonny Liston to win the world championship and successfully retaining it 10 times before it was taken away from him in 1967 while he was on suspension.

The fight dubbed ‘the Last Hurrah’ really should have been the former world champion’s final walk out of the ring, after being battered by Holmes, but instead he limped on for one more.

Ali came up against Trevor Berbick, who would end up becoming the only man to fight Ali, Holmes and Mike Tyson, in a fight which wound up being named ‘Drama in Bahamas.’

The bout had to take place in the Bahamas because no American boxing boards would give ‘The Greatest’ a licence to box.

Perhaps unsurprisingly he claimed he was as fit as ever, and even brought medical records to the press conference to prove so, but he did weigh in at his heaviest ever for a fight.


“A man who has missed the last bus after the bars close takes more out of himself on the walk home than Ali had done with what we were supposed to regard as roadwork,” McIlvanney wrote in the Observer.

As well as the problems with his training, the 39-year-old revealed that even his trainer wasn’t sure about the comeback.

“Angelo thinks I shouldn’t be fightin’,” Ali said the week of the fight, “He’s coming in to work the corner but he thinks I’m shot, my legs have gone. But Angelo’s not me. He don’t know what I’ve got.”

Ali also boasted about how week a sparring session with Tommy Hearns had gone, with Hearns on the undercard in his comeback fight following his September loss to Sugar Ray Leonard.

“I had a four-round brawl with Hearns, and it was right on,” the former world champ said
“With Tommy?” Dundee, who arrived late to Nassau, asked.
“Stickin’ and jabbin’. Over his jab. Trading punches. Getting him in the corners. One on one.”
“I love you going with little guys,” said Dundee. “I love it.”

The drama really kicked off just days before the fight with Don King flying to Nassau to get the money he claimed he was owed.
King was Berbick’s promoter and wanted as much as $200,000 from the ‘mysterious’ Sports Internationale (Bahamas) Ltd, who were promoting the fight.

After landing in the Bahamas for his step aside money, King then accused the company’s president James Cornelius and four unidentified men of beating him up and threatening to kill him.
Cornelius was nearly the cause of the fight not going ahead as well, as per the New York Times’ report on the night.


Just an hour before the broadcast Berbick had still not been paid all of his money, as Sports Internationale ran into issues.
He was given a credit note on the Thursday, but it wasn’t for all his money, with the Jamaican born fighter declaring ‘I want all my money before I fight.’


By 5pm Saturday he had still not been given all his money, until TV company SelecTV stepped in to cover the remaining $250,000.Berbick wasn’t the only one who was suffering from the promoter’s lack of money, with Hearns returning to his room on Thursday to find it locked.


He had to pay for the room himself, after the promoters failed to stump up the cash, but he’d at least paid in full early by SelecTV, having agreed a deal with them to fight on their network again.
Ali, Berbick and Hearns were the only fighters on the card with their own dressing rooms, with everyone else having to share.

When they arrived at the venue there was a delay as the keys to get in couldn’t be found and there were no boxing gloves available.
The issues weren’t just behind the scenes either, with the venue struggling to sell seats, despite the name value Ali had carried throughout his career.

Tickets had to be dropped from $50 to $5 and the New York Times suggested that not all of the near 11,000 capacity arena had paid for their seats.

Ahead of the fight Ali claimed he would ‘dance all night’ but the man who once floated like a butterfly no longer had the wings to carry himself.

When the fight did finally start it was signified not by the ringing of a traditional bell but by a cowbell and hammer.

His 27-year-old opponent landed the better early shots and began working on the legend’s body in the third round.

Ali did stagger Berbick at the end of the fifth round, following his best six minutes of the fight, and continued his work in the sixth, but mostly his shots didn’t carry the same bee stings they once had.


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