1975-03-24 Muhammad Ali w rsc 15 (15) Chuck Wepner, The Coliseum, Cleveland, Ohio, USA - WORLD

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1975-03-24 Muhammad Ali w rsc 15 (15) Chuck Wepner, The Coliseum, Cleveland, Ohio, USA - WORLD. Referee: Tony Perez. Making his first defence, Ali (223½) took on the unranked Wepner (225), a man not even rated in the top ten, and toyed with him for much of the time while just fighting in short bursts. Tired and out of ideas by the eighth, Wepner actually knocked Ali down for ‘three’ in the ninth with a right to the ribs. Clearly embarrassed, Ali pounded away at Wepner, who was now cut over the left eye, and for a while it looked as though he would be taken out. By the end of the 11th both of Wepner’s eyes were badly swollen and bleeding but he managed to continue despite taking much punishment. Wepner was always trying to fight back, even connecting solidly with Ali’s jaw in the 15th, but after being blasted by four big punches the man who would come to be known as the ‘Bayonne Bleeder’ was sent down heavily. Although getting to his feet it was clear to the referee that Wepner was in no position to defend himself properly and he stopped the fight with just 19 seconds remaining.

Ali’s next challenger would be the dangerous, hard-hitting Ron Lyle, despite the latter getting himself outpointed over ten rounds by Jimmy Young on 11 February 1975, a few weeks after signing on the dotted line. That loss cost Lyle his number-three rating, but the contest would still go ahead. Lyle had only lost to Jerry Quarry prior to that and among his 30 wins were victories over Manuel Ramos, Vicente Rondon, Buster Mathis, Gregorio Peralta (twice), Jose Luis Garcia, Juergen Blin, Al Jones and Jimmy Ellis.