Muhammad Ali vs. Zora Folley

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Ali puts Folley down for the count in the seventh round.

Muhammad Ali 211 lbs beat Zora Folley 203 lbs by KO at 1:48 in round 7 of 15


  • Muhammad Ali vs. Zora Folley was the first World Heavyweight Championship fight to be held at Madison Square Garden since Ezzard Charles vs. Lee Oma on January 12, 1951.
  • Folley was The Ring magazine's No. 1-ranked heavyweight contender.
  • Ali was a 7 to 1 betting favorite.
  • The fight was televised by RKO General and Madison Square Garden in more than 150 cities. New York City was blacked out.
  • There was a snowstorm on the day of the fight, which affected attendance.
  • There was a crowd of 13,780.
  • The gross gate was $244,471, which broke the previous Madison Square Garden record of $239,959.
  • Ali collected about $260,000 on his 50 percent of the net gate and $150,000 from ancillary rights. Folley earned his largest purse, about $58,000 on 15 percent of the net and $25,000 from ancillaries.
  • At the time of the knockout, Referee Johnny LoBianca and Judge Frank Forbes had Ali ahead 4-2 in rounds, and Judge Tony Castellano had the fight even, 3-3. The Associated Press had Ali in front 3-2-1.
  • Ali planned to fight Oscar Bonavena on May 27 in Tokyo, Japan, and then Thad Spencer on July 22 in San Francisco, California. However, seven days before the Folley fight, he was ordered to report for induction into the United States Army in April. Ali, who had unsuccessfully sought draft exemption as a conscientious objector, refused to be inducted. Due to his refusal and subsequent legal battles, he didn't fight again for three and a half years.
  • Mark Kram of Sports Illustrated reported:
Folley did accomplish some things. He cut the ring down on Ali. He hit the champion more often than any other opponent with solid right hands and slip jabs. He did not panic when Ali got cute and, faking and feinting, he forced Ali to miss several good punches. On the negative side—besides being knocked out—he obstinately clung to one stratagem; while moving to his right, he kept looking to throw a right-hand counter. It did not take Ali long to learn that he could go in flat-footed and ram home his good right hand, which so many people doubt he possesses.
It is also a popular opinion that Ali just played with Folley the first two rounds, but it is more likely that he was measuring Folley's reactions and the strength of his punches. It wasn't until the third round that Ali began working. His straight left hands—not his jab—kept snapping Folley's head back, and these were the punches that started Folley on his way out. At the end of the third round, Ali told his corner that Folley had begun to tire, that his punches had lost some of their life.
In the fourth, Ali, now punching flat-footed, spun Folley around with a left hook and then banged a right hand in back of his ear. Folley went down; he was flat on his stomach, and then suddenly he was up, his nose streaming blood, and he was kneeling and looking to his corner for the count. Folley raged back, but he had left too much of himself on the floor. Ali, it appeared, carried Folley in the fifth and sixth rounds, but going into the seventh Herbert Muhammad, his manager, told him to "stop playin'." He did. Two rights, the first of which traveled roughly six inches, gave Ali his 29th straight victory and his ninth successful title defense.

Post-Fight Comments

  • "Folley bothered me for a while. He was taking his time and stalking me, but he wasn't fast enough." - Muhammad Ali
  • "There is no one around today who can beat him. I should know, I've fought them all." - Zora Folley
  • "He was a better fighter than Sonny Liston, or Floyd Patterson or Ernie Terrell. He was slick, tricky and a good boxer." - Muhammad Ali
  • "I still think I can beat any heavyweight but Clay. I'm not ashamed of my showing. I fought well. I gave it all I had." - Zora Folley
  • "Clay has to be rated with the great heavyweight champions." - Murray Rose of the Associated Press