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Muhammad Ali KOs Oscar Bonavena This Day December 7, 1970
- Muhammad Ali 212 lbs
- Oscar Bonavena 204 lbs
- TKO at 2:03 in round 15 of 15
- Location: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, USA
- Referee: Mark Conn
- Judge: Joe Eppy
- Judge: Jack Bloom
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.”