Muhammad Ali is one of the best boxers of all time, and naturally, fans are curious how he’d perform against fighters from other eras. Bruce Lee is considered one of the greatest martial artists of all time, and many fans are also curious how he’d do in a real fight. So, the natural thing to wonder is who’d win a fight, Bruce Lee or Muhammad Ali?
The ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ controversy
Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, had many characters, and one of them was Bruce Lee. Unlike the real-life martial artist though, Tarantino portrayed Bruce Lee as an arrogant and overconfident man, according to South China Morning Post. Many people close to Lee in real life have disputed this fictional portrayal, and one of the issues comes down to what Bruce Lee said in the film.
In the movie, Bruce Lee said that he’d beat Muhammad Ali in a fight, but as South China Morning Post reported, that was far from the truth. The real Lee was a big fan of boxing and “worshipped” Ali.
A look at Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali’s skills and careers
Lee was a very fit man, and although he never fought professionally, he was an expert in martial arts. In fact, he created his own martial art called Jeet Kune Do, or JKD, according to South China Morning Post. JKD can be considered a mixed-martial art, since it mixes several martial arts together.
In fact, some of JKD’s techniques are used in the UFC today. For example, Conor McGregor is a big fan of Lee, and he even said that if Lee was alive today, he’d do well in the UFC, according to Sport Bible.
This is largely due to the techniques and tactics that Lee pioneered with JKD, some of which, McGregor has adopted. For example, the idea of being like water during a fight is something Lee talked about a lot and it’s something that McGregor does as well.
Ali on the other hand, needs no introduction in terms of his skill and career. He’s arguably one of the best boxers ever and he retired with a record of 56-5. He’s out-boxed many great boxers such as Sonny Liston, George Foreman, and Joe Frazier. And of course, his legacy in boxing still inspires many boxers today.
Who’d win in a fight between Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali?
Like any fantasy fight, we will never really know and it’s up to you to choose who’d win. That said, there are some facts to consider. Lee was a smaller man, as he was about 5-foot 7-inches tall and about 140-pounds. Ali was about 6-foot 3-inches tall and, since he was a heavyweight, he weighed well over 200-pounds in his career. In his later fights, Ali weighed in at about 230-pounds.
Ali has the height, weight, and reach advantage over Lee, but Lee has an ace up his sleeve. He once had a fight in Japan, in what some consider to be one of the first mixed-martial arts fights ever.
Ali fought a Japanese professional wrestler named Antonio Inoki, and due to the strange rules, Inoki just laid on his back and kicked at Ali. Ali couldn’t do much, but the fight was declared a draw in the end.
There have been other similarly strange fights. For example, PRIDE, a Japanese MMA organization, hosted fights between sumo wrestlers and regularly-sized men. Sometimes the bigger man won, other times, the smaller man found a way to win.
Since Ali was a boxer while Lee could kick, it’s possible that Lee could’ve kicked his way to a win. But, it’s also very possible that Ali could’ve just knocked Lee out with a few punches.
That said, since Ali was a professional boxer while Lee had less experience in that arena, Ali probably has better chances in a fight between the two legends.