GREAT SPORTING EVENTS
IN THIS MONTH – September
Year – 1960
Location – Rome, Italy
Occasion – Games of the XVII Olympiad
Event – Final of the Boxing Light heavyweight Division
Competitors – Zbigniew Pietrzykowski (Poland) vs Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr (USA)
The 1960 Olympic Games in Rome are regarded today as one of the greatest Olympic occasions in history. Awash with talent from all around the world and held in one of the greatest cities in the world, Rome beat out Lausanne, Detroit, Brussels, Mexico City and Tokyo for the rights to host the games.
A total of 83 nations participated at the Rome Games with athletes from south Asian countries such as India and Pakistan also in the mix picking up three medals between them including a gold medal for the latter country in the men’s hockey competition.
But the Rome Olympic games will always be remembered for one athlete who went on to become arguably the greatest sports personality ever to walk the planet.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, USA on January 17, 1942, Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr (later known as Muhammad Ali) was a very active child and at the age of twelve started training at the local police station under the guidance of police officer and boxing coach John E. Martin after he complained to the coach that somebody had stolen his bicycle and he wanted to “whup” the boys who had taken it. Quickly realizing the potential and determination to succeed by the youngster, Martin coached the young Clay who went on to win six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two National Golden Gloves titles and an Amateur Athletic Union National Title within six years. His next destination was the Rome Olympics and the brash eighteen year old was now full of confidence often predicting the results in advance. Clay started well in the second round of the competition stopping his opponent Yvon Becot from Belgium in round two with a devastating knockdown. The quarter final was a sterner test and Clay was forced to go the full distance against the durable Gennadiy Shatkov from Russia. Eventually Clay’s speed and flamboyancy easily outpointed his game opponent 5-0 on the scorecards. The semi-final was once again a tricky affair against the tough Australian, Anthony Madigan. Clay started well often confusing his opponent with his long, sharp jab and quick foot speed leaving Madigan desperate to land his trademark left hook in the hope of stopping his opponent. Unfortunately for Madigan he could only hit thin air and Clay went on to win on points 5-0. Clay’s opponent in the final was the experienced Polish boxerZbigniew Pietrzykowski. A bronze medal winner at the previous Olympic Games held in Melbourne four years earlier, the former light middleweight boxer was odds on favorite to win the gold medal. Pietrzykowski was seen by many as too experienced and too strong for his younger opponent and at the first bell he started by bullying Clay with body shots and right hooks. By round two Clay settled into his momentum picking his opponent off with precise jabs often coupled with powerful shots to the body. Clay would eventually wear down his opponent and dominate the fight to win 5-0 on the judge’s scorecards. Celebrating with his trademark shuffle (later known as the Ali shuffle) with both arms aloft, a new star was born.
After changing his name to Muhammad Ali in 1964, he would go on to become the greatest boxer of all time and the first boxer in history to win the World Heavyweight title on three different occasions (between 1964 – 1978) fighting some of the greatest boxers the sport has ever seen including the likes of Sonny Liston, Henry Cooper, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Larry Holmes.