Muhammad Ali is widely celebrated as being arguably the best boxer that the sport has ever had. Ali put forth an incredible career that saw him become the top heavyweight fighter that had the trash-talking to back up his extraordinary confidence in his ability in the squared circle. However, it was that brash approach to fighting that saw him endure much physical punishment, especially in the latter portion of his illustrious career. Many years later, it has been calculated that Ali took around 200,000 headshots during his fighting days.
Muhammad Ali’s fighting style
Throughout his career, Ali’s approach to his craft changed as it came with age due to the mileage on his body.
In the early portion of his professional career, he had his youth on his side as he was quite quick with lightning-fast feet and hands that helped him find a tremendous amount of success. It was a critical factor in him getting past Sonny Liston to earn his first heavyweight title reign.
During that time, Ali utilized that speed while also continuing to move around the ring at seemingly all times to prevent his opponent from having a stationary target to hit. He also had the initiate ability to avoid punches because of his quickness. Much of his technique on offense and defense were unorthodox and not by the book in regards to the recommended approach.
However, there was a notable difference when he returned from his three-year hiatus in 1970; he was viewed as being a bit slower and more vulnerable to power punches. He didn’t have the same speed and stamina that once helped him excel even further in the ring as that absence cost him three years of his prime.
Ali still maintained the impressive ability to go toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring with his opponents. He also had strong chin while his defense remained a positive asset for him as it helped him move toward regaining the heavyweight title. It was later in his career, where he was slower, and his stamina wasn’t nearly what it once was while he took more punches in the process. All that in hindsight
Muhammad Ali took 200,000 headshots
Although Ali had quite an impressive boxing career, it was clear that it took a significant impact on his life after his fighting days. His fighting style throughout his career saw him take a plethora of shots to the head over his time in the squared circle.
According to the author Jonathan Eig, who wrote the biography on the iconic fighter entitled Ali: A Life, the tally of punches that Ali took reached an estimated 200,000 shots to the head. (H/T William Weinbaum of ESPN)
“I think a lot of the revelations in the book at first will appear to be negatives,” Eig told Jeremy Schaap of ESPN’s E:60 in a recent interview. “Ali took 200,000 punches; he suffered brain damage far earlier than we thought; he mistreated women, but at the same time, I hope that this book will also help us appreciate him in the larger sense and to see his accomplishments and to see how they fit in, so that the negatives and the positives combine.”
Ali may have dished out plenty of physical punishment throughout his illustrious career, but he also took a beating. It’s also hard not to link that to his declining health after his career ended in 1981. Three years after his final fight, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
From that point on, his health only went further south as he was unable to talk much in the latter portion of his life. Ali lived another 32 years after his diagnosis, but the physical punishment he took during his career took its toll on him.
Muhammad Ali embraced bringing awareness to Parkinson’s Disease
It may have been quite difficult for many to see Ali as a shell of what he once was during his youth, but he made the most of his physical situation.
He was one of the most prominent public figures dealing with the disease. That brought more awareness and a greater understanding of it, which he took a step further in the 1990s by being a huge advocate for increased government funding to research Parkinson’s Disease. That included him starting an annual Celebrity Fight Night to help raise money that, in total, his efforts led to $100 million in donations.
That saw him help create the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute, which was a clinic and research center dedicated to the cause. Ali may have dealt with a harsh physical condition, but he did what he could to bring more attention to the disease.