Ali outlasts Quarry in (replay) return to the ring

Title Bout II game

It may be hard for the younger folks to believe today, but there was a time when Muhammad Ali was far from the beloved cultural icon he became in his later years and remains in death.

A good-sized section of White America hated Ali, first for his brash personality and, later, for his refusal on principle to be part of the dumbest and most unpopular war in American history. When he was stripped of his title for refusing induction into the Army and basically exiled for three and a half years in the prime of his boxing career, they cheered.

NY Daily News cartoonAnd when he returned to the ring in 1970, after a favorable Supreme Court decision, they couldn’t wait to see him go down. Ali’s1Many in the press still referred to him as “Cassius Clay,” despite his adoption of a Muslim name six years prior. return bout against contender Jerry Quarry on October 26 in Atlanta was met with a level of skepticism, as many believed (as the New York Daily News cartoon at right expressed) that the layoff was just too formidable a foe, and that Ali/Clay would soon be reduced to a “What might have been” footnote in boxing history.

Using the Title Bout II boxing simulation game, I replayed the Ali/Quarry fight.

Quarry entered the proceedings at Atlanta’s 5,000-seat Municipal Auditorium with a 37-4-4 record and 23 knockouts, and had won four straight in 1970 since losing to George Chuvalo in late 1969. Ali came in 29-0-0 with 23 KOs, but hadn’t fought since March 22, 1967 when he won a decision over Zora Folley2Unless you count the staged 1970 “computer fight” against Rocky Marciano, which you can see here.. Despite the long layoff, Ali was a 17-5 favorite of the oddsmakers and the choice of 90 percent of 40 sportswriters polled by the Daily News.

With referee Tony Perez in charge, the fight commenced at around 10:30 p.m. ET in front of the intimate in-house crowd and an estimated 100 million watching around the world via satellite and on closed-circuit telecasts in more than 200 locations in the US and Canada.

Ali dominated ROUND ONE, scoring with a jab, two crosses and two combinations, one that opened a slight cut under Quarry’s left eye3Coincidentally, the real-life fight ended in the third because of what was described as “a vicious gash” above the Irishman’s left eye.. Quarry absorbed the blows, but could not muster any sort of attack. All three judges scored the round 10-9 to Ali.

With the cut closed between rounds, Quarry finally landed his first meaningful punches in ROUND TWO, a stanza that saw a lot of moving and feinting, but not a lot of punching. After Ali scored with back-to-back jabs early in the round, Quarry connected with a hook and two crosses. He was also warned by Lopez about a low blow. Two judges scored the round 10-9 to Ali, with the other card deadlocked 10-10.

Ali again took charge in ROUND THREE, landing two solid crosses and an uppercut while Quarry flailed and missed through much of the round. Quarry finally did score with a legitimate hook and an uppercut near the end of the round, but all three cards went Ali’s way, 10-9.

It appeared as though Ali wanted to end the proceedings in ROUND FOUR, but he could not get Quarry on the canvas despite landing several powerful punches. Quarry spent the entire round on defense, to the point where all three judges scored it 10-8 to Ali.

Perhaps realizing he had lost the previous four rounds, Quarry came out on the offensive in ROUND FIVE. He landed a mild jab, then scored with a resounding one, but Ali came back with a couple of hooks and an uppercut in the last 90 seconds of the round. For the first time, Quarry had something to build on, as he won the round on one judge’s card and managed a deadlock on another.

Ali vs QuarryComing out strong in ROUND SIX, Quarry managed to get Ali on the far ropes and landed a combination that momentarily stunned Ali. But the former champ battled back, landing at least three powerful shots to Quarry’s body before the round ended. Quarry took the round on two judges’ cards, 10-9, with Ali winning 10-9 on the other.

With Quarry’s endurance beginning to wane as ROUND SEVEN began, Ali let his opponent throw and land a couple of punches, absorbing them easily and further fatiguing Quarry. Ali landed a solid jab, a cross and another jab, before badly tearing Quarry’s lip with a hook and following it up with a combination at the bell. All three cards went for Ali, 10-9.

Quarry’s cornerman was able to staunch the lip bleeding as he went out for ROUND EIGHT, but after landing a quick uppercut and a combination, the Irishman, with his stamina fading, left an opening for Ali. Muhammad hammered Quarry with two powerful rights, then knocked him briefly (for a two-count) to the canvas with a cross. Quarry recovered, and Ali was unable to do further damage before the bell, but he still won the round on all three cards, 10-8. That meant he had won six of the first eight rounds, with one scored even.

Wanting to finish Quarry off in the NINTH ROUND, Ali shook off an early combination from his opponent and then handed punch after punch to get off to a dominant start. The only things slowing Ali down in the round were a pair of warnings from Lopez, one for an elbow and one for a low blow. Neither resulted in a point deduction, and Ali earned the round 10-9 on two cards and 10-8 on another. Despite losing seven of the first nine rounds, Quarry was down, but still not out.

Somehow summoning what was left of his energy reserves, Quarry clearly won ROUND TEN with a flurry of jabs, a cross, a hook and a combination that Ali seemed content to let him launch. Ali tried to steal the round with a couple of late punches, but Quarry took it 10-9 on all three cards. Two-thirds of the way through the fight, Quarry’s only chance seemed to be a knockout, but it remained to be seen if he could bring forth what was necessary.

Boxing as if he was sure he was comfortably ahead, Ali landed a combination and a jab early in ROUND ELEVEN. Expending the little energy he had left, Quarry scored with a cross, a hook and a jab before Ali delivered a combination that made it a much closer affair. Quarry took the round on two cards, 10-9, while the third showed a 10-10 deadlock. But officially out of endurance4The game gives each fighter a certain number of endurance points that are used up by punches both absorbed and missed., Quarry would fight whatever remained of the bout in a “fatigued” state, meaning his ability to deliver and respond to blows would be compromised.

Muhammad Ali and Jerry QuarryStill, Quarry came out the aggressor in ROUND TWELVE5Remember, most bouts prior to the early 1980s were scheduled for 15 rounds, not the 12 you may be familiar with today. and delivered a couple of shots – a jab that Ali partially blocked and another that landed – before Ali responded by knocking his bigger, younger opponent down for the second time in the fight. Quarry took an eight-count, but got back up and scored with a cross that opened a slight cut under Ali’s right eye. Ali delivered a hook, two jabs and a combination to leave no doubt as to the fight’s final result, but Quarry somehow survived to the bell. All three cards were 10-8 to Ali.

Knowing he need only avoid a knockout to win the fight, Ali let Quarry punch away through the first half of ROUND THIRTEEN. A jab, a hook and a cross brought cheers for Quarry from the crowd, but he was unable to sustain the momentum. Ali didn’t land a meaningful punch until late in the round, but it was enough for him to win the stanza 10-9 on one card while losing the other two 10-9.

Unexpectedly pushed to the FOURTEENTH ROUND by Quarry, Ali tried to end it early, with a cross and a ringing right hook. Quarry clinched quite a bit, trying to hold on to the end, and even landed a mild cross late in the round. Ali had too much and Quarry was too exhausted for it to be anything but another 10-9 result on all three cards.

Aware that Ali had been taken to the end for only the third time in his career, the Municipal Auditorium crowd stood and applauded both the returning champ and his gallant opponent as they tapped gloves at the start of ROUND FIFTEEN. Quarry somehow managed to land an early scoring punch, but Ali methodically worked him throughout the round and re-opened the previous slight cut over Quarry’s left eye midway through. Quarry stayed on his feet and even landed a late combination, but the outcome was obvious. While one judge inexplicably scored it 10-9 to Quarry, the other two went 10-9 for Ali.

With the crowd standing and cheering in appreciation of the fighters’ performances, the ring announcer read out the final results:

  • Judge Lew Eskin scored it 147-135 to Ali.
  • Judge Bill Graham had it 146-136 to Ali.
  • Referee Perez scored the fight 146-138 to Ali.

In picking up his 30th win without a loss, Ali showed he could come back after the long layoff. The fact he couldn’t knock Quarry out could be seen as evidence he was not the fighter he had been pre-exile, but many of those same fans and pundits still looked forward to a potential Ali-Joe Frazier fight. That’s one I’ll replay in the future.

Incidentally, if you want to see the entire Ali-Quarry fight, it’s below:

Kenn Tomasch

Kenn Tomasch

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