Muhammad Ali


It was already over, and everyone knew it. This painful event just made it official.

Promoted as “Drama in Bahama” in consonance with Ali’s trademark way of naming his biggest fights, the Trevor Berbick-Muhammad Ali 10-rounder took place in Nassau, Bahamas on December 11, 1981.

Fourteen months earlier, Ali had suffered a merciless beating at the hands of his former sparring partner Larry Holmes, in what everyone understood that was the last fight of his career. But the 39-year-old Ali chose to trudge on, and the 27-year-old Berbick seemed to be the perfect foe for Ali to score one final win to cap his extraordinary career.

Although he already slurred his words and was noticeably slower in his body language, Ali was deemed fit to fight even though no American state would grant him a boxing license after the Holmes fight. For that, he traveled to the Bahamas to face a young Jamaican fighter who would later become the heavyweight titlist that Mike Tyson stopped on his first title shot

Ali weighted in at one of the heaviest weights of his career at 236 pounds, and the extra weight clearly translated into his plowing performance. His hands found their way to Berbick’s head early on and often enough to score some rounds, but his legs were gone, and with them his greatest asset. Berbick started punishing his midsection heavily, and Ali’s mobility was affected even further. Aside from a few occasional flashes of his greatness, Ali was nothing but a shell of himself and dropped a unanimous decision in what, sure enough, ended up being his last professional bout.

The event itself was a box office disaster, with no national TV to show the fight in the States and only about 8000 people in the stands. But the biggest disaster was the one that affected Ali’s reputation. Having lost only three bouts and avenging all three of them (Spinks once, Frazier and Norton twice apiece) in the years before the Holmes debacle, Ali had to retire with two additional losses that damaged his body and his brain beyond repair.

The cost of seeing The Greatest climb through the ropes one last time was, for his fans and for himself, a price too high to pay.


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