By Adeshola Fashola
Cassius Clay, who used his birth name until he became a Black Muslim in 1964, grew up in a quiet black neighbourhood of Louisville, Kentucky. He was a popular student in high school, where his stunning self-confidence made him noteworthy even then. He had been focussed on boxing since he was twelve and trained with the single-mindedness of a future champion.
Unlike most boxers; Ali liked to hold his hands low and evade punches to the head by simply bobbing out of harm’s way. His knack for self-promotion nearly rivalled his ring skills as he mugged for the cameras, talked in rhymes, and boasted that he was not only the greatest, but also the prettiest of all time.
He began to predict, with unnerving accuracy, the round in which he would stop opponents (“They all fall/in the round I call”). In a time when interest in boxing had waned, Ali dramatically revitalised the sport. He was a one-man show, full of swagger and contempt, and the press and public embraced him.
On this day in 1981, the Jamaican boxer Trevor Berbick beat the 39 year old Muhammad Ali in a unanimous 10-round decision, before a crowd of 10,000 at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre in Nassau, the Bahamas.
Immensely popular with the fans, Ali put in his best performance in the middle of the Berbick fight, seeming to win the fifth and sixth rounds with his combinations and aggressive punches.
From the seventh round on, however, control belonged to the 27-year-old Berbick, whose speed and power allowed him to batter Ali; inflicting a series of damaging punches. In the end, all three judges gave the match to Berbick.
Ali retired for good after the fight, finishing his career with an overall record of 56 wins-5 losses and earning a lasting reputation as one of the 20th century’s most influential sportsmen.
Today; Cruise Nigeria remembers the day the greatest boxer of all time- took his last bow.