Saturday, March 25, 2023  |



‘Perfection’: The 50-year anniversary of Ali-Williams

Photo: The Ring Magazine

Muhammad Ali v Cleveland WilliamsALI VS. WILLIAMS
Date: Nov. 14, 1966
Location: Houston, Tx.
Ali’s record: 26-0 (21 KOs)
Williams’s record: 65-5-1 (52 KOs)
Result: TKO3
Background: For many Muhammad Ali aficionados, this was his Sistine Chapel. A fistic masterpiece where The Greatest displayed the full repertoire and took virtually nothing in return. You want proof? Compubox analysed the fight on video and came away with the following statistics: Ali landed 62 percent of his punches (46 of 74) while Williams connected only 10 times. For this reporter, no fighter, never mind heavyweight, has ever exhibited the art of boxing with such flair and finesse, while dishing out such brutality. After dancing, feinting and sticking out the jab in Round 1, Ali went into overdrive. He dropped Williams three times in the second, with each knockdown more conclusive and perfectly executed than the next. There were shuffles, body punches (a rarity) and combinations that are unheard of for a heavyweight fighter. Ali sat down on his shots in the third and smashed Williams to pieces, prompting referee Harry Kessler to halt the slaughter at 1:08. Ali was 212 pounds that night and if you ever needed someone to fight for your life against any other champion, current or former, bigger or smaller, then look no further.

 “(The Ali shuffle) is something I predict that all fighters will use through the future of boxing. But you have to be awful fast to do it.”

Ali reviews the Williams fight with broadcasting legend Howard Cosell on ABC Wide World of Sports in 1966.

“The greatest Ali ever was as a fighter was against Williams. That night, he was the most devastating fighter who ever lived.”

Cosell discusses the bout with Ali biographer Thomas Hauser (exert from the book Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times).

“The genius of the Cleveland Williams fight; the accuracy and the stunning savagery – it’s awesome. And anyone who says (Ali) wasn’t a puncher should see this fight.”

Actor and close friend of Ali, Billy Crystal (from documentary Muhammad Ali: Through the Eyes of the World).

“(Ali versus Williams) was a beautiful fight, man – artistic.”

Short and sweet from Sugar Ray Leonard, who appeared alongside Ali and Mike Tyson on the Arsenio Hall Show in 1989.


Tom Gray is a UK Correspondent/ Editor for and a member of THE RING ratings panel. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing

Struggling to locate a copy of RING magazine? Try here or…


Ring Magazine Dec 2016

You can subscribe to the print and digital editions of RING magazine by clicking the banner or here. You can also order the current issue, which is on newsstands, or back issues from our subscribe page. On the cover this month: Double Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields. The U.K. Issue featuring cover star Carl Frampton is available now.