On this day: Muhammad Ali defeats Floyd Patterson in non-title bout
“I’m going to fight ‘The Rabbit’ in The Garden.”
On Sept. 20, 1972, in a battle of former heavyweight champions, Muhammad Ali scored a seventh-round corner retirement over Floyd Patterson at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Ali had posted seven straight wins since being dropped and outpointed by then-champion Joe Frazier. The new game plan for “The Greatest” was to knock off every worthwhile heavyweight in a bid to force a rematch.
The 37-year-old Patterson, who was then the only two-time heavyweight champ in boxing history, was next on the hitlist.
Despite his advancing years, Patterson was on good form coming in. The unassuming left hooker from New York hadn’t lost a fight in four years and was coming off solid wins over Oscar Bonavena and Pedro Agosto. He was also motivated to avenge a humiliating 12th-round stoppage to Ali in November 1965.
He just didn’t have the size (30 pounds lighter at 188) or the style to cause problems.
Ali was much more tolerant of Patterson than he had been in the original hate-fueled encounter. He did a lot of posing, while Patterson tried – and failed – to do serious damage in the early rounds.
In Round 6, Ali went through the gears, nailing Patterson with a swift flurry of headshots. The fight turned in an instant. Patterson’s left eye closed almost instantly and Ali went to work in earnest. A ripping one-two combination and a flush right uppercut were memorable blows.
In the seventh, Ali kept his man at bay with the jab and the eye injury got progressively worse. Referee Arthur Mercante blocked Patterson’s path when he gamely got off his stool for Round 8 and waved the bout over.
On the undercard, Ken Buchanan stopped Carlos Ortiz (TKO 6) in a battle of lightweight legends.