Muhammad Ali vs. Oscar Natalio Bonavena

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Muhammad Ali 212 lbs beat Oscar Bonavena 204 lbs by TKO at 2:03 in round 15 of 15

  • Date: 1970-12-07
  • Location: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, USA
  • Referee: Mark Conn 12-2
  • Judge: Joe Eppy 10-3
  • Judge: Jack Bloom 8-5
  • NABF Heavyweight Title (Vacant)


  • Ali had recently returned to the ring after a layoff of three and a half years. His layoff was due to his refusal to be drafted into the United States Army and subsequent legal battles. "It is the light of my consciousness as a Muslim minister and my own personal convictions that I take my stand in rejecting the call to be inducted in the armed services," Ali stated after refusing induction on April 28, 1967. "I have searched my conscience and I find I cannot be true to my belief in my religion by accepting such a call." He was convicted of draft evasion on June 20, 1967. Ali was sentenced to five years in prison and fined $10,000, the maximum penalty for the offense. He remained free on a $5,000 bond while he appealed his conviction. Ali was also stripped of the World Heavyweight Championship by the New York State Athletic Commission and the World Boxing Association, systematically denied a boxing license in every state and stripped of his passport.
  • With the help of Georgia State Senator Leroy Johnson, Ali was able to get a boxing license from the Atlanta Athletic Commission in August 1970. On September 10, Ali signed to fight Jerry Quarry in Atlanta. Four days later, a federal judge ruled that Ali should be granted a boxing license in New York. "The commission's contention that the recentness of Ali's conviction provides adequate basis for denying him a license is without merit," Judge Walter R. Mansfield stated. "The commission's own records revealed that it had not made such a distinction in its disposition of other applications."
  • Ali stopped Jerry Quarry on a cut after three rounds on October 26. The following week, it was announced that Ali would fight Oscar Bonavena in New York City on December 7.
  • Ali and Bonavena were fighting for the NABF heavyweight title, which was declared vacant following the retirement of Leotis Martin.
  • Ali was guaranteed $200,000 against 42½ percent of all receipts. Bonavena was guaranteed $100,000 against 22½ percent of all receipts.
  • The fight was shown live on closed circuit TV in 150 locations.
  • Ali was a 6-1 betting favorite.
  • Bonavena entered the fight as the WBA's No. 1-ranked heavyweight contender.
  • Ali predicted he would stop Bonavena in nine rounds. "He'll be mine in nine."
  • At a pre-fight physical examination, Bonavena asked Ali why he didn't join the Army. Ali told Bonavena that he would tell him during the fight's first clinch. Bonavena called Ali a "big chicken" and started making chicken noises. He then repeatedly called Ali by his pre-Muslim name. "Clay ... Clay ... Clay," he said while laughing. Ali yelled to the crowd, "Please! Tell everyone to get to your theaters. I have never had a man that I wanted to whup so bad!"
  • A crowd of 19,417 at Madison Square Garden produced a gross gate of $615,401.
  • Going into the 15th round, Referee Mark Cohen had Ali ahead 12-2, Judge Joe Eppey had him in front 10-3-1, and Judge Jack Bloom had him leading 8-5-1. The Associated Press had Ali ahead 7-6-1.
  • Bonavena was knocked down three times in the 15th round, forcing an automatic stoppage under the three-knockdown rule. It was the only time Bonavena was stopped in his 68-fight pro career.
  • After the fight, Bonavena told Ali, "Listen, champ, I strong, but you stronger. Frazier never win you." He then turned to the press and said, "This is the champion. . . . He no Chicken."
  • Ali said, "It was the toughest fight I ever had."
  • Fight Poster, Photo 2, Photo 3, Photo 4, Photo 5.


Preceded by:
Liston vs. Martin
NABF Heavyweight Title Fight
# 2
Succeeded by:
Foreman vs. Peralta II