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  Ali vs. Folley - Mar 22, 1967  
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Sports Illustrated takes you ringside for 10 of the best bouts in Madison Square Garden history. Click on a fight and return to the Mecca.

1957: Robinson-Fullmer
1963: Clay-Jones
1967: Ali-Folley
1968: Foster-Tiger
1971: Ali-Frazier
1977: Ali-Shavers
1979: Holmes-Weaver
1983: Duran-Moore
1986: Camacho-Rosario
1991: Leonard-Norris
Evanders Believe It Or Not! From Don King's bark to Mike Tyson's bite, Holyfield's career has been defined by the outrageous. Scroll through our timeline to relive the madness and mayhem.
Tomato Cans They're known for bleeding, losing and taking a serious pounding. Check out our gallery of boxing's most unlikely contenders.
Molding a Champion CNN/SI followed Holyfield through a typical day of training. Check out the video clips, but be sure to come back to Evander's Believe It Or Not.

Team Holyfield
A Day in the Life

 
 
 
After Muhammad, A Graveyard

The heavyweight champion won an interesting fight against an aging but surprisingly worthy challenger. Now Ali's clouded future raises the possibility that the ring soon may be deprived of its most colorful figure

by Mark Kram

Issue date: April 3, 1967

While Muhammad Ali—with the Muslim guard prancing in front of him and shouting, "Out the way, get out"—entered the Midtown Motor Inn across from Madison Square Garden after the fight, Zora Folley departed like an old, humble preacher leaving a gospel tent. He faded into the darkness of Eighth Avenue, a street of no faces and no names, where already the scramblers and the ramblers, and the drifters and grifters, who did not have the price to get inside, were yowling that one Zora Folley was just another stiff for a bigmouth draft dodger.


Still, Folley did accomplish some things. He cut the ring down on Ali. He hit the champion more often than any other opponent with solid right hands and slip jabs. He did not panic when Ali got cute and, faking and feinting, he forced Ali to miss several good punches. On the negative side—besides being knocked out—he obstinately clung to one strategem; while moving to his right, he kept looking to throw a right-handed counter. It did not take Ali long to learn that he could go in flat-footed and ram home his good right hand, which so many people doubt he possesses.

It is also a popular opinion that Ali just played with Folley the first two rounds, but it is more likely that he was measuring Folley's reactions and the strength of his punches. It wasn't until the third round that Ali began working. His straight left hands—not his jab—kept snapping Folley's head back, and these were the punches that started Folley on his way out. At the end of the third round, Ali told his corner that Folley had begun to tire, that his punches had lost some of their life.

In the fourth, Ali, now punching flat-footed, spun Folley around with a left hook and then banged a right hand in back of his ear. Folley went down; he was flat on his stomach, and then suddenly he was up, his nose streaming blood, and he was kneeling and looking to his corner for the count. Folley raged back, but he had left too much of himself on the floor. Ali, it appeared, carried Folley in the fifth and sixth rounds, but going into the seventh Herbert Muhammad, his manager, told him to "stop playin'." He did. Two rights, the first of which traveled roughly six inches, gave Ali his 29th straight successful title defense, and sent Folley back to the anonymity in which he has long labored—and seems to prefer.


The gate was plainly in danger, until the draft board requested Ali to appear for induction on April 11. That same day he began to create the character dramatization that rescued the box office.

"This may be the last chance," he said, "to see Muhammad Ali in living color, so if you have always been wanting to see me you'd better come to the Garden." Later he said: "Perhaps in one to three years I will fight again." The "one to three" seemed to indicate he would choose a jail sentence to military service. He would not disclose his decision, but his hints were cleverly camouflaged. "My life, my death, all my sacrifices," said Ali, who has a curious bent toward martyrdom, "are for Allah. I am the tool of Allah and because of my sacrifice it will come out that hundreds of Muslims are in jail rather than fight in the Army. Or even just go into the service."

It is likely that Ali will not fight again in the near future; already, in an effort not to antagonize the government, he has canceled his May 27 fight with Oscar Bonavena in Tokyo. His lawyer, Hayden Covington, originally believed that the course of appeals would take at least a year, but his appeal on the grounds that Ali is a Muslim minister and conscientious objector has been refused. Covington's latest maneuver—the suit against the draft board contending there is a lack of Negro representation and therefore existing prejudice—is no more than a delaying action. Covington believes he will win in the courts on the question of Ali's minister-objector claim, but this will come only after he reports for induction, which could be in May in Houston. No one is sure he will report. If he fails to do so, he will go to jail and Covington will get him out on bond until the issue is decided.


"After I go," said Muhammad Ali, "boxing will be a graveyard."