As a late-blooming Baby Boomer,
I was always a little too little to enjoy the prime-time of many of the world’s GREATS I’ve since come to admire. Elvis was already trying to make a comeback late in his career when I was barely able to boogie out of my plastic britches. Bruce Lee was dead before I’d discovered his universe altering epic film, Enter the Dragon–sadly, HE was dead before it came out as well.
And then there was Ali. By the time I was aware and found myself falling in-love with his phenomenon, he was already losing badly to the base-likes of Larry Holmes–a boxer who went out of celebrity by denigrating those who’d come before him.
Sure, we have YouTube, books, the remembrances of those who’ve lived long enough to recall personal encounters of such legends. But having been there at the time, in the moment, as the genius Billy Crystal so marvelously recalled during Ali’s memorial–ringside, backstage, on set–with the great Muhammad Ali, would have been a life-changing event for anyone.
Instead, I have this image of The Champ, and that’s okay too. I have no idea if anyone but myself and the photojournalist who made the image 41-years ago has seen it, but I’m grateful I have something to share from an icon I admired. I’ve been to His museum in Louisville, just as I’ve toured The King’s mansion in Graceland, but again, feeling a little late to the party.
Thank you Mr. Crystal, for keeping Ali’s memory alive for us all to be inspired by. I hope someday I get stuck with you in an elevator for 97-hours. You’ll have my ear.
Jimmy Young made his name globally and with the public when he fought Muhammad Ali in Landover, Maryland in April 1976 for the world heavyweight title, although boxing circles had already noted his ability. Ali weighed in at 230 pounds, the highest for any of his fights up to that point (he would weigh 236.25 pounds in his fight against Trevor Berbick), and was consequently slow and immobile throughout the bout. Seven years younger and 21 pounds lighter, Young adopted a strategy of fighting aggressively from a distance, landing numerous light blows while dodging and parrying Ali’s counterpunches, and using his body blows, which had little power behind them but were effective at scoring points. At close quarters, Young would turn passive. He retreated whenever possible, and often kept his head ducked very low to avoid serious blows when Ali would fight from the inside.
On several occasions when Ali was inside and Young had his back to the ropes, Young would intentionally put his head or upper body out of the ring to compel the referee to separate the fighters. To some[who?], Young’s was a brilliant strategy of neutralizing his opponent’s strengths and forcing the bout to be fought on his own terms, exposing Ali’s inability to fight a counterpuncher. To others[who?], it seemed cowardly as he forced a stoppage to the fight every time Ali held the advantage.
The referee did at one point during the fight initiate a count due to Jimmy Young being outside the ropes. The fight went the full 15 rounds with a controversial one-sided unanimous decision going to Ali. Referee Tom Kelly scored it 72-65; judges Larry Barrett and Terry Moore had it 70-68 and 71-64, respectively.