Thirty-five years ago today, Muhammad Ali fought his last boxing match — against Trevor Berbick. He had retired twice before and no one believed this was really the last time. But Ali was 39 and his body was failing him; already his speech and balance were eroding. A year earlier, he’d suffered a technical knockout against Larry Holmes. When Holmes connected a right hand to Ali’s kidneys in round nine, the former champion roared in pain. His hands tingled, he was slurring his words. His ring doctor called for everyone involved in that fight to be arrested. Ali, he said, was no longer “the Ali who had a heart the size of the Empire State Building.”
Trevor Berbick beat Ali in a unanimous 10-round decision. Afterwards, Ali said, “I came out all right for an old man. We all lose sometimes. We all grow old.” It was the end of an era. Ali retired with a record of 56 wins and 5 losses. He was a three-time heavyweight champion. Throughout his career, he had fought not just for points, but also for black pride and world peace.
The Holmes fight he had dedicated “to all the people who’ve been told, You can’t do it. People who drop out of school because they’re told they’re dumb. People who go to crime because they don’t think they can find jobs. I’m dedicating this fight to all of you people who have a Larry Holmes in your life. I’m gonna whup my Holmes, and I want you to whup your Holmes.”