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  Monday, 14 January, 2002, 13:53 GMT
Fall of the master
Muhammad Ali celebrates victory in 1972
King of the world: Ali was lean and mean in 1972
BBC Sport Online's Alex Trickett recalls the night Muhammad Ali was humbled by his disciple Larry Holmes.

Muhammad Ali was a prodigiously talented Golden Gloves champion in the 1950s, an upstart world beater in the 1960s and a boxing master in the 1970s.

By the 1980s, he should have been a comfortably retired family man.

But, driven to fight on in search of even greater glory, Ali could not resist a bout with dominant heavyweight king Larry Holmes.

It was not a fight Holmes wanted to take.

Larry Holmes with the WBC belt
Holmes: World champion in 1978

He had idolised Ali as a youngster, had been an awe-struck apprentice in his corner and had no desire to exploit his mentor's waning powers.

But, money - and Ali's unlikely quest to become the first man to regain the world title three times - dictated that the bout go ahead.

It took place on 2 October, 1980 in Las Vegas and, even before the men stepped into the ring, it was clear that Ali would have his work cut out for him.

He had slimmed down from 254 pounds to 217, but looked ponderous and flabby compared to the sleek and fit Holmes, who weighed in at 211 pounds.

If hope remained that "The Greatest" could pull off another miraculous comeback, it subsided in round one when Holmes set upon Ali, mixing body punches with hooks to establish the pattern of a one-sided fight.

Muhammad Ali before his crushing defeat at the hands of Larry Holmes
Hope: Ali dreams of another world title in 1980

Champion beat challenger to almost every punch, forcing Ali to resort to the rope-a-dope tactic that had been so successful against George Foreman in 1974.

Six years on, however, it paid no dividend.

Ali's dulled reflexes and reduced power gave Holmes no trouble and, by round nine, he was beginning to take a real beating.

The well-hyped fight - which took a then-record $6m in gate receipts - now made unpleasant viewing.

Even Holmes, an assured winner by this stage, lost interest, perceptibly toning down his punches in an attempt to spare his idol unnecessary damage.


All I could think of after the first round was 'Oh God, I still have 14 rounds to go'
Muhammad Ali

Ali had begun the bout with his usual air of superiority, taunting Holmes by saying: "I'm your master. I'm your teacher."

By the end, the diminished legend was barely throwing a punch.

When trainer Angelo Dundee withdrew his fighter to hand Holmes a hollow 11th-round victory, he put the paying public out their collective misery.

Ali walked away with some pride, having avoided a knockout. By every other criteria, however, he had been humbled.

"All I could think of after the first round was 'Oh God, I still have 14 rounds to go'," he said afterwards.

Ali would fight again - in a dismal decision loss to Trevor Berbick in 1981 - but his career effectively ended in Las Vegas on the night pupil embarrassed master.

BBC Sport Online reviews the life and career of Muhammad Ali at 60

Ali's birthday landmark

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