‘Was Probably Hit 200,000 Times’: Biographer Blames Muhammad Ali’s Boxing Strategy for Late Legend’s Deteriorating Health

Published 09/18/2022, 10:30 AM EDT
Muhammad Ali sits in a wheelchair as he is taken to a photo session with attendees of the 50th Convention of the World Boxing Council in Cancun, December 2012. REUTERS/Victor Ruiz Garcia

Muhammad Ali’s struggle with Parkinson’s is well known to boxing fans around the world. Ali, who professionally competed from 1960 to 1981, is said to have shown the signs of Parkinson’s when he fought Leon Spinks in 1978 for the second time. Recently, biographer Jonathan Eig and author of Ali: A Life, offered a giant figure marking the times Ali got hit. According to Eig’s discovery, ‘The Greatest’ was hit about 200,000 times. About half of these blows, that is to say, about 100,000 shots were received to his head.

In his book, Eig claimed Ali to have had absorped an exceptional number of blows. According to Eig, as Ali got older and slower, his strategy was to allow his opponents to hit him. The following is what Eig said about Ali, who, according to his studies, “was probably hit about 200,000 times“:

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“He absorbed way more blows than the average fighter because, as he got older and slower, part of his strategy was to allow his opponents to him. He thought he could wear down his opponents by letting them punch him in the head, then wait until the late rounds when they’re tired and beat them.”

Author Jonathan Eig demonstrates the speech pattern of Muhammad Ali: Ali was speaking 26 percent slower

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To construct the book Ali: A Life, Jonathan Eig closely studied video footage of both Ali’s interviews and fights. Ali had received way too many blows and his physician, Pacheco, was concerned for his life. Although Pacheco, having somewhat understood the condition Ali was in, requested the boxer to quit boxing, Ali refused.

Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stands over Sonny Liston and taunts him to get up during their title fight. Ali knocked Liston out in one minute in the first round during their bout at the Central Maine Youth Center in Lewiston, Maine.

Eig said, “We studied Ali’s speech patterns over the years and you could see Ferdie was right. His voice was slowing down and turning softer and softer and with every fight it grew worse and worse. Between 1970 and 1980, he’d begun speaking 26 percent slower. And you can see that after individual fights, his speech rate would decline, then begin to recover until he’d fight again — then it would go back down.”

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What is your take on Eig’s discovery of Ali in the book Ali: A Life?

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Samrat Sardar

429 articles

Samrat Sardar is a Boxing writer at EssentiallySports and is currently a final year undergraduate student of English literature. A passionate content creator, he has been writing since his high school days, and possesses work experience as a commercial writer for companies such as WordsKraft among others. Samrat believes he fell in love with boxing the day he watched Vasiliy Lomachenko share the ring with Guillermo Rigondeaux.

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