1978-09-15 Muhammad Ali w pts 15 Leon Spinks, The Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA - WBA
1978-09-15 Muhammad Ali w pts 15 Leon Spinks, The Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA - WBA. Referee: Lucien Joubert. Scorecards: 11-4, 10-4, 10-4. In winning the title for a record three times, the 37-year-old Ali (221) danced his way to victory over the much younger Spinks (201) even though he conserved his energy by fighting for less than a minute in each round. While Spinks occasionally landed heavy punches that unsettled the challenger he failed to follow up any advantage he might have gained. As the fight wore on it became repetitive, with Ali popping in the jab before moving on, and with Spinks failing to work out what to do next he was steadily outboxed from start to finish. Even though he had the fifth round taken away for holding and hitting, Ali was allowed to get away with that tactic throughout and it formed an important part of his strategy to stop Spinks from working at close quarters.
Ali, having remained inactive, relinquished the WBA version of the title on announcing his retirement in June 1979 and an eliminating series was set up to find the next champion. In the first semi-final leg, John Tate knocked out Kallie Knoetze inside eight rounds at the Independence Stadium, Mabatho, South Africa on 2 June 1979, while the second leg, held at the Fontvieille Big Top, Monte Carlo on 24 June 1979, saw Gerrie Coetzee force the referee to come to the rescue of Spinks in the first.
Prior to meeting Coetzee, the hard-punching Tate was unbeaten in 19 contests, with only three going the distance, and had demolished Bernardo Mercado and Duane Bobick. With the ability to take a good punch as well as being a big hitter, Coetzee was unbeaten on 22, scoring good wins over Jimmy Richards (twice), Ron Stander, Mike Schutte (twice), Knoetze, Piere Fourie and Randy Stephens.