“The Greatest” at his greatest.
On Aug. 6, 1966, Muhammad Ali successfully defended the heavyweight championship of the world for the fifth time by scoring a third-round knockout of Englishman Brian London at Earl’s Court Arena in London.
Ali, unbeaten in 24 straight fights, was coming off a sixth-round stoppage of the most popular fighter in Britain at the time, Henry Cooper. That bout was eagerly anticipated because Cooper had decked Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) three years earlier in a non-title bout before being stopped on cuts. It was cuts again for poor ‘Enry in the rematch.
London had lost to Cooper on three occasions, and Floyd Patterson stopped him in a previous title attempt. He was a 15-1 underdog going into the Ali fight and expectations were low. The Blackpool-based slugger was solid enough, but his plodding style and slow-motion footwork looked tailor-made for the champion’s speed and sharp shooting.
And so it proved.
The champ established his jab in the opening round and London looked way out of his depth. A sharp right stunned the challenger late in the second as Ali layered his offence and sought the early finish.
Early in the third, Ali backed London into his own corner with nothing more than a string of feints. Suddenly trapped, the bewildered challenger could only watch as Ali released a blurring combination, culminating in a flush right to the chin.
Fourteen punches, one knockdown, one 10-count.
English sport had been on a serious upswing after their soccer team annexed the World Cup one week earlier, but the heavyweight title would remain out of the U.K.’s reach for several more years.