Trevor Berbick vs. Muhammad Ali

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1981-12-11 : Trevor Berbick 218 lbs beat Muhammad Ali 236¼ lbs by UD in round 10 of 10

The Fight


The fight was actually close for seven rounds, with Berbick missing enough to make it competitive and interesting. Ali jabbed and delivered his harmless rights, and Berbick tattooed Ali's ribs when the three-time champion tried to hold on. But over the last three rounds, Berbick dominated, causing one to wonder what would have happened to Ali had he been in with a truly exceptional fighter. Larry Holmes demolished Ali and marked his once unblemished face even though he tempered his fight plan with underlying caution and unnecessary respect. Berbick, not one-fifth the fighter Holmes is, walked right through Ali yet couldn't drive in a single telling blow. The decision was unanimous. Judge Alonzo Butler of the Bahamas scored it 97-94 for Berbick, and judges Clyde Gray of Canada and Jay Edson of Florida agreed, both voting 99-94. International Boxing had it a bit closer, tabbing Berbick the winner, 96-94. (Steve Farhood - International Boxing)

Don King Incident

Berbick fought Larry Holmes for the title in April of 1981. But in order to get the title shot, he had to give Don King options on his next three fights. Thus, when Ali vs. Berbick was announced, King demanded a piece of the promotion. The fight's promoter, James Cornelius, refused, and King threatened to sue to block the fight. Six days before the fight, King flew to the Bahamas to press his claim for "perhaps as much as $200,000." King met with Berbick and demanded satisfaction. The next morning, there was a knock on King's hotel-room door. Eight hours later, King was in a Florida hospital, the victim of a savage beating allegedly delivered by Cornelius and members of the Nation of Islam. (Thomas Hauser - Muhammad Ali: His Life & Times - pages 426-428)


  • Following his victory, Berbick told the press, "I tried to take him out early with one to the jaw, but I couldn't and then I decided I didn't want to hurt him."
  • At the post-fight press conference, Ali said, "Father Time caught up with me. In my younger days, I wouldn't have had any trouble. But I just couldn't do what I wanted to do."
  • When Ali was asked if his skills may be eroding, he answered, "It's not 'may have' gone: they have gone!" (The Ring - April 2009)