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Just wondered who people see as being the best opponent Ali ever faced? Obviously anybody citing Jean-Pierre Coopman is being a little silly, but I am interested to hear who and why.

Personally I think it's Larry Holmes, not a popular choice with Ali fans because of what happened no doubt, and I'm sure they will cite how Ali would have destroyed him a few years previously. I am not so sure however as Holmes, well known for being a blabbermouth, states that he left the Ali camp having learned all he could learn, confident that he'd beat Ali. The guy may well have said a lot of things in his time, but I have no doubt he believed in what he was saying.

The majority of people I would suspect will say Foreman or Frazier, but I personally think that fighting Ali at a point where boxing(particularly Heavyweight) was at it's most high profile, increases the standing of both immeasurably.

Foreman was formidable at this point because he was exceptionally big and strong, his punches could wreck anybody, but as far as skills or even a boxing brain? He's not derided in the way that Marciano is for this, but I urge you to watch them both and come back and tell me he has more skills, defensive smarts or a Plan B, he really was unbelievably crude, and would a smart fighter really have punched himself to a standstill against Ali without taking a moment to consider what was happening. Ali got it right when he called him the Mummy!

Frazier probably had a lot more skill than Foreman, but Foreman would also knock Frazier out a hundred times out of a hundred, which kind of eliminates Frazier. Saying that, he'd do the same with Ken Norton who would probably have a hundred close and debatable decisions with Ali, who would again beat Foreman every time. It probably is the old cliche "styles make fights", as Norton was probably the one who gave Ali the most trouble(I think he was unlucky to drop 2 decisions), Frazier second and Foreman last, but Foreman has the greater claim as he utterly starched the other two.

Holmes for me has the edge over all of them on skills by quite some way, but his chin, heart and sheer and utter determination to win(or sheer refusal to lose) was greater also, and I also think he was infinitely more adaptable(the other three mentioned were pretty one-dimensional fighters). Punch power is his flaw compared to the others(though he could certainly bang) but then Ali is not exactly known for that either, and while it's a huge advantage it's not essential(Ivan Calderon anybody?).

I probably write too much, apologies for this, but I look forward to hearing from you(I'm going to get shot down in flames...)
 

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The Professor
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Larry Holmes was the best Heavyweight (I specify Heavyweight because if we're talking about lb for lb here Archie Moore is debatably above everyone else he fought) Ali ever fought. BUT, George Foreman is a VERY CLOSE second. In most people's ratings of the top 10 Heavyweights including my own, Foreman and Holmes are directly next to each other, usually in all cases with Larry in the lead. It's the biggest match up that boxing never had. So big, that people would still pay millions of dollars to see the fight NOW. Larry STILL wants to fight Foreman.

Now, you touched on why Foreman is rated as the best guy Ali ever fought by his fans with the fact that he'd knock out everyone Ali was hard pressed to defeat (minus Jimmy Young, who schooled both of them). BUT, to keep it real Foreman only lost to Ali for being as you said in less words 'not very bright'. Foreman was fighting at a pace he'd never fought at before, trying to do something no man had ever done (knock Ali out). And for all the things Ali didn't have, youth, a punch, legs to fight 15 rounds in the middle of the ring, he ALWAYS AND FOREVER HAD A GREAT CHIN. It was a HUGE mistake by Foreman to rush to knock Ali out. Ali had nothing for Foreman had he fought a smart fight, and it's most likely why Foreman was never given a rematch. When Foreman finally got good management (after coming out of a 10 YEAR retirement) he started fighting smart. He had the best trainer there was, Ali's old trainer Angelo Dundee. And that's why he's the the oldest man to win the Heavyweight Championship. For all the skills George lacked the man was the closest thing to perfection of a natural phenom as you get. You could not hurt him. You could not stop him from coming. You could not withstand his punches if they were to land flush. And you had NO CHANCE IN HELL of beating him if you fought him coming forward. And in his old age after learning to control his pace and energy YOU COULD NOT TIRE THE MAN OUT and would end up exhausted yourself at the end of the fight. Even Holyfield who's the best conditioned Heavyweight since Ali was COMPLETELY EXHAUSTED down the stretch fighting Foreman due to the relentless pressure. Had Foreman landed 1 hard clean shot in the 11th or 12th round of that fight he would have been champion again even earlier. This was a 40 year old man fighting a top ~10 ALL time Heavyweight still in his prime who was honestly ready to go.

As for Holmes...he almost broke Marciano's record, was the 3rd longest reigning Heavyweight Champion of all time, and did all this with significantly better opposition than Marciano had. People need to know that in Marciano's 49 fights only 11 times was it against a top 10 contender, and 3 of them he fought twice. Then the best names of the 8 different top contenders he fought were either past their prime and/or better fighters at Light Heavyweight. Now Holmes had some close fights for sure...and I think he should have lost to Tim Witherspoon (a Philadelphia fighter like Frazier). Could have been a great trilogy if they didn't rob Witherspoon. Holmes also did go tooth and nail with an old Norton, but like Ali, Holmes was not a devastating puncher. And Norton was going to give ANYONE a hard time that wasn't a KO artist. Foreman never being motivated to fight Holmes gives me further indication that Holmes really is the better fighter.
 

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Spike Spiegel
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I'd agree that Holmes was the best Ali ever fought, but regardless it was post-prime Ali anyway. I really like George Foreman aswell as one of Ali's toughest and best because to me Foreman is one of my top 5 favourites ever. To me, Holmes is one of the greats and during his day, very underrated (and under appreciated). Over the last 30 years I'd rank Holmes and Lewis as the best Heavyweights.
 

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The Professor
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Holmes more than held is own with Ali in his sparring up to the Foreman fight. People said Ali struggled aginst him and he only had 8 pro fights then.
That wasn't the only man Ali struggled with who had only 8 or less pro fights either ;)

I'd agree that Holmes was the best Ali ever fought, but regardless it was post-prime Ali anyway. I really like George Foreman aswell as one of Ali's toughest and best because to me Foreman is one of my top 5 favourites ever. To me, Holmes is one of the greats and during his day, very underrated (and under appreciated). Over the last 30 years I'd rank Holmes and Lewis as the best Heavyweights.
As do I. I really would have liked to see Lewis fight and Old Foreman. Given that that fight and the Bowe fight didn't happen it's hard to say how great he was against elite big guys. The Bowe fight is entirely not his fault tho, that's for damn sure.
 

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I'd say Holmes was, but at a point where Ali stood a chance, I would say Foreman.
 

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Holmes more than held is own with Ali in his sparring up to the Foreman fight. People said Ali struggled aginst him and he only had 8 pro fights then.
All of Ali's sparring partners got the better of him leading upto that fight. He basically just lied on the ropes, covered up and took the shots. Basically, he did what he did in the Foreman fight.

I'd agree that Holmes was the best Ali ever fought, but regardless it was post-prime Ali anyway. I really like George Foreman aswell as one of Ali's toughest and best because to me Foreman is one of my top 5 favourites ever. To me, Holmes is one of the greats and during his day, very underrated (and under appreciated). Over the last 30 years I'd rank Holmes and Lewis as the best Heavyweights.
Id agree Lewis & Holmes are the best. Both tremendous fighters, i just wish someone like those guys would come through now.

As do I. I really would have liked to see Lewis fight and Old Foreman. Given that that fight and the Bowe fight didn't happen it's hard to say how great he was against elite big guys. The Bowe fight is entirely not his fault tho, that's for damn sure.
Bowe ducked him IMO. Ask CJ what he thinks about this LOL:laugh:
 
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All of Ali's sparring partners got the better of him leading upto that fight. He basically just lied on the ropes, covered up and took the shots. Basically, he did what he did in the Foreman fight.
Yeah, I know man. Ali took alot of punishment in the build up to the fight to prepare his body for what Foreman had planned for him. But there were rumours that Holmes was really causing Ali problems, but obviously Ali wasn't giving 100% effort.

And Bowe ducked Lewis without a doubt.
 

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All of Ali's sparring partners got the better of him leading upto that fight. He basically just lied on the ropes, covered up and took the shots. Basically, he did what he did in the Foreman fight.
Even in late 1972-1973 it was being noted that Larry was giving Ali all he could handle in sparring. Larry has also said he knows Muhammad was a terrible gym fighter, but it is still pretty good for someone that as of 1972 has been boxing 5 years can give Ali trouble.
 
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