Another Look at Jimmy Young's fight with Muhammad Ali

21.09.04 - By Rev. Marc Axelrod: This was supposed to be the first of several tune up fights for Ali before taking on Ken Norton five months later in the fall of 1976. But Ali came into the ring weighing 230 pounds and looking as if he had trained on jelly doughnuts. Jimmy Young came in at a fit 209 pounds.

Ali gave away the first two rounds by doing absolutely nothing at all. He lumbered toward Young, looking like a bow legged toddler, holding his arms high in front of his head, daring Jimmy to swing at him. And even though Jimmy did little more than score with some pitty pat jabs and soft counters below Ali's belt line, it was enough to win the rounds.

Ali was more active in rounds three through six, flailing away wildly while Jimmy fought a defensive fight, slipping and sliding and deflecting most of Ali's shots. I don't remember ever seeing Ali miss punches as badly as he did in this fight. But I had to award Muhammad these rounds because Young wasn't busy enough. Ali was doing all thre work, even if he was looking bad doing it.The sixth round was Ali's best to this point, chasing the awkward and slippery Young all over the ring, firing head shots from all angles.

Young did better in rounds seven and eight, jarring Ali with some good combinations. He was so effective in these rounds that Ali changed tactics and came out dancing in the ninth round. Ali was having a better round until Young landed what may have been his best punch of the fight, a counter right cross which knocked Ali sideways, and sent the crowd (and Howard Cosell) into a frenzy. Ali actually held on to Jimmy as the challenger followed up with some shots to the stomach. I called the round even though because Young didn't do a darn thing for the rest of the time.

Ali maintained control of the fight's tempo in rounds ten through twelve, landing a solid right to Young's head in the eleventh. But the twelfth round was Ali's best of the fight. Young appeared to be tiring as Ali bulled Young into the ropes, firing wild shots from all angles, and once again, as he did several times before, Young stuck his head out of the ring to get away from Ali. The referee actually started to administer a standing eight count to Jimmy, but it was not recorded as a knockdown.

But Young summoned energy that it didn;' look like he had, and he came on in the thirteenth and fourteenth rounds, backing Ali up with good combinations. He continued to make Ali miss, and the crowd really started to get behind him. The atmosphere was thick with excitement as Ali came out quickly in the 15th round, desperately looking for the punch that would fell Young and assure the retention of the title. But he flailed away in vain.

The fight was scored on the 5 point must system, and I scored it 69-68 for Ali. It was a very close fight. I gave Young rounds 1-2, 7-8, and 13-14. I feel very comfortable about giving these rounds to Jimmy. He landed the better shots in these rounds. I gave Ali rounds 3,4,5,6 and 10,11, and 12. There's not a doubt in my mind that Ali took these rounds. He made the
fight in these rounds, and Young was largely on the defensive.

I scored rounds nine and fifteen even. These were the toughest rounds to score. If Young had done a little but more in these rounds, he could have won the fight.

I want to say two other things about the scoring of this match. Young would repeatedly counter Ali's missed right hands by landing with soft flurries below the belt line. The referee warned Young repeatedly for hitting below the belt early on, but then he just forgot about it while Young continued to do it. So while some people may have scored these flurries as points
for Jimmy, I didn't because they were illegal.

Secondly, it could have counted as a knockdown against Jimmy when he stuck his head and body outside the ring. In the tenth round, Ali actually tried punching Jimmy while he ducked outside the ring. But the referee pulled him off.

The judges scored this fight 70-68, 72-65, and 71-64, all for Ali. I felt that it was a much closer fight than what the judges had it, but they apparently were more impressed with Ali's aggressiveness than they were with Young's elusiveness. Young was very upset after the decision was announced, and the crowd booed Ali as he left the ring. But I think it would be a
mistake to say that Jimmy Young was robbed. He would go on from this to beat George Foreman in 1977, then it was all downhill from there, as he lost to Ken Norton, twice to Ossie Ocasio, and then he became a trialhorse for the likes of Gerry Cooney, Greg Page, Tony Tucker, and Tony Tubbs.

Article posted on 21.09.2004

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