1967-03-22 Muhammad Ali w co 7 (15) Zora Folley, Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA - WORLD

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1967-03-22 Muhammad Ali w co 7 (15) Zora Folley, Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA - WORLD. Referee: John LoBianco. Making a good start, Folley (202½) took the opening two rounds while Ali (211½) appeared content to see what his challenger had to offer. By the third, Ali, warming to the task, was beating Folley to the punch. The fourth round saw Ali go up a gear, and after a left-right to Folley’s head dropped the latter for the mandatory ‘eight’ count many believed he would end the contest quickly. However, it was Folley who was throwing the harder punches in the fifth and sixth sessions despite being outscored. Although Folley continued in the same vein into the seventh, with Ali beginning to pick up the pace a right to the jaw put the former down to be counted out at 1.48 of the round.

In April 1967, Ali forfeited his title in the eyes of the WBA and NYSAC, who suspended him after he refused to serve in the US Army, fighting in Vietnam, due to his religious beliefs as a Muslim. While the WBC said they would continue to support Ali on the grounds that he had not violated any boxing rules, the WBA and the NYSAC both inferred that Ali’s refusal to enter the army was detrimental to the best interests of boxing.

While Ali faced a possible conviction which could bring a five-year prison sentence and a large fine or both, a series of eliminators got underway to determine a new champion. The WBA eventually announced that eight men - Thad Spencer, Jimmy Ellis, Oscar Bonavena, Jerry Quarry, Ernie Terrell, Leotis Martin, Karl Mildenberger and Floyd Patterson - would compete despite the WBC continuing to support Ali until 6 March 1968.

Although the WBA had earlier named Joe Frazier for their tournament he decided not to enter, being supported by the NYSAC who failed to recognise what the WBA were doing as the best means of finding the champion. Frazier then met George Chuvalo (w rsc 4 at Madison Square Garden on 19 July) in a 12-round eliminator sanctioned by the NYSAC.

The WBA quarter-finals got underway with Spencer (w pts 12 Terrell at the Astrodome, Houston, Texas on 5 August), Ellis (w rsc 9 Martin on 5 August at the Astrodome, Houston), Bonavena (w pts 12 Mildenberger at the Bicycle Stadium, Frankfurt, Germany on 16 September) and Quarry (w pts 12 Patterson at the Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California on 28 October) qualifying. The semi-final stage saw Ellis (w pts 12 Bonavena at the Freedom Hall, Louisville, Kentucky on 2 December) and Quarry (w rsc 12 Spencer at The Arena, Oakland, California on 3 February 1968) winning their way through to the final.

Meanwhile, Frazier was matched to contest the NYSAC version of the title against another former amateur star, Buster Mathis, who had run up 23 victories against no one of any significance since turning pro. Regardless of this apparent lack of substance, other States who joined forces with the NYSAC to recognise the winner of Frazier v Mathis as the world champion were Massachusetts, Maine and Illinois, the last two breaking ranks with the WBA in doing so.