Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali ‘I am the greatest!” or so proclaimed Muhammad Ali – at the time, still known by his birth name, Cassius Clay – in February, 1964, shortly before becoming world heavyweight champion for the first time. On February 25, 1964, in his first meeting with Sonny Liston in Miami, Florida, Clay scored a shock technical knockout when the ‘big, ugly bear’, as he repeatedly called his opponent, failed to answer the bell for the seventh round. The pair met again in Lewiston, Maine on May 25, 1965, by which time Clay had joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali; Ali won again, by first-round knockout.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17, 1942, Ali was blessed not only with unprecedented boxing skills, but also extraordinary self-belief, which led to him being dubbed ‘The Louisville Lip’ by the press. On April 28, 1967, as the Vietnam War escalated, Ali refused to be inducted into the US Army on religious grounds, was stripped of his heavyweight title and had his boxing licence revoked.

That decision was reversed by the US Supreme Court in 1971; Ali would go on to win two more world heavyweight titles, against George Foreman in the legendary ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo on October 30, 1974 and against Leon Spinks in New Orleans, Louisiana on September 15, 1978. Ali also fought Joe Frazier three times, culminating in the so-called ‘Thrilla in Manila’ – widely regarded as the best fight of all time – in the then capital of the Phillipines, Quezon City, on October 1, 1975; Ali won by technical knockout after 14 rounds.

Whether or not Ali was, in fact, the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time, or merely one of the greatest, is open to debate. However, he remains the only three-time champion of the heavyweight division and few would argue that he was one of the most popular, influential and charismatic figures of the twentieth century.

Top 10 Muhammad Ali Best Knockouts

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Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards Sir Gareth Edwards, knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2015 for services to sport and charity, was arguably the greatest scrum-half in the history of rugby union. Born on July 12, 1947, in the former mining village of Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, near Ammanford, in South West Wales, Edwards made his international debut, at the age of 19, in a Five Nations Championship match against France at the Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir, near Paris in 1967. The following season, at the age of 20, he became the youngest ever captain of the Welsh national team, against Scotland at Cardiff Arms Park in the same competition.

All told, as arguably the best player in a back division that included John Peter Rhys ‘JPR’ Williams, Gerald Davies, Phil Bennett and Barry John, Edwards would win 53 consecutive caps for Wales. Remarkably, for a scrum-half, he scored twenty tries for Wales in Test matches. He also won ten caps for the British Lions, notably in New Zealand in 1971, when they lost only one game and won a Test series against New Zealand and South Africa in 1974, when they were undefeated for the entire tour.

Edwards also scored what has been described as the ‘greatest try ever’ when playing for the Barbarians against New Zealand at Cardiff Arms Park in January, 1973. In the first few minutes of the match, Barbarians’ fly-half Phil Bennett retrieved a kick from New Zealand winger Bryan Williams inside his own 22-metre line, sidestepped three opponents and passed to full-back JPR Williams. Twenty-five seconds later, Edwards capped a sensational handling move by diving over in the corner, leading commentator Cliff Morgan to exclaim, ‘A dramatic start! What a score!’

Gareth Edwards’ iconic Six Nations try against Scotland (1972)

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