In his 27th professional fight before Ali ever won the heavyweight title, he produced for me what is still one of the most genius nights of boxing magic ever displayed in a ring. For any boxing fans who have not seen it, I implore you to watch the Muhammad Ali vs Cleveland Williams full fight video below. It will be worth it.
Ali in his next fight would go on to capture his first version of the world heavyweight title (WBA) in 1967 against Ernie Terrell in Texas.
But before that he put on one of his best performances ever during his prime, in my opinion. Combinations and hand speed that the heavyweight division had never seen before.
Impeccable timing and movement. Just poetry in motion. Here’s the Muhammad Ali vs Cleveland Williams full fight on November 14th, 2016:
(Hat tip to the Martin Bell YouTube account):
Williams didn’t know what hit him that night.
The amount of combinations that detonated on his face was truly remarkable for the heavyweight division. Not just at that time but still by today’s standard too.
It’s very rare you see a heavyweight through that amount of punches in bunches with that level of whirlwind speed behind them.
Williams was regarded as a dangerous, dangerous fighter coming into the bout. A huge puncher with a murderous left hook that was feared by many in the division.
But he didn’t realize he was trying to come after a genius. Come after a genius and you pay the price.
Ali like throughout his career and indeed his life was not to be intimidated by Williams. But besides the famous Ali fortitude it was the dazzling speed and technique that he produced that night that I’ll never forget.
Sure, he had many more famous and legendary nights in the ring with the likes of George Foreman and Joe Frazier, but this is my personal favorite Ali fight of all time for it’s sheer brilliance during his prime years.
For me it represented Ali at his best – speed, skills and belief all in the one during his athletic peak.