55 Years Ago Today: Ali Defeats Zora Folley In The Final Fight Of His Prime

Folley Would Die Mysteriously Five Years Later

Muhammad Ali liked Zora Folley. Indeed, the brash, controversial fighter who had adopted the Muslim faith and was willing to go to jail to defend the honour of his religious beliefs, had a tough time getting himself angry enough to punch his 34 year old challenger – so much of a nice guy was Zora. And Folley, who was the first Ali opponent to call Ali by his new name, not Cassius Clay, turned out to be the last man to face the primed and peaking Ali.

It was not too long after his 7th round stoppage win that Ali was stripped of the title, refused the right to fight due to his refusal to serve Uncle Sam in Vietnam; this on the strict instructions of Brother Elijah, as in Elijah Muhammad. Ali was now a man without an income, a man without a passport – a man with some serious haters. It would, as we know, be almost four years before Ali was permitted to box again. His peak years forever robbed from him, Ali nevertheless came back in the next decade, and, after some super-fights, not all of which he won, Ali was bigger than ever.

Due to the actions of the US government, fight fans the world over were forever left to wonder how much greater, indeed how super-great, the already great Ali might have become. Imagine for a few minutes, a 25, 26, 27 year old Ali fighting straight after the Folley win. Would ANY heavyweight in the world, indeed the universe have had a prayer of beating him? No chance.

It was a sad time for America when Ali was shamelessly stripped, and it was a sadder time for world boxing. In some ways, the sport never fully recovered. Still, Ali never lost his dignity, his faith, or his belief. Ali became king all over again and, in 1974, the circle was complete, as “The Greatest” regained the crown; this just a short time after the president who is said to have delayed the ending to the Vietnam war for his own purposes was impeached and thrown from office. Talk about poetic justice!

But what about Zora?

Folley had ten more fights after losing his one and only world title chance; with him going on to lose/draw more than he won. Retiring in 1970, this after suffering a 1st round KO at the hands of Mac Foster, Folley went on to serve as a member of the Chandler City council as well as being a good husband and father, this to nine kids. But then, on July 8, 1972, Folley died under mysterious circumstances.

Folley checked into a hotel, this under a false name, and he was with another man and two women at the time. Folley then became the victim of a nasty accident/incident, having fallen, or having been shoved, into the hotel swimming pool. Zora reportedly suffered a head injury and he later died in hospital. To this day, nobody knows who the other three people who were there that day were, nor does anyone know how Folley had “several injuries to his head,” including a “hole in his head.” And this from an alleged accidental fall into a pool? The autopsy was never made public and all Zora’s fans knew was that he was dead.

The conspiracy theories continue to this day.

Zora Folley: 1931-1972. Pro Record: 79-11-6(44).