While the tributes and celebratory pieces continue to come in for the epic “Fight of the Century” between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, one fighter who had every right to be celebrating that historic night in his own right has sadly passed away.
Danny McAlinden, who became the first Irish fighter to win the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles, has passed away at the age of 73. McAlinden, who moved to Coventry as a young man, was diagnosed with tongue cancer back in 2010.
A talented, heavy-handed fighter who had a very bright future, McAlinden went pro in the late 1960s. He picked up impressive wins over the likes of Richard Dunn (later losing a return fight with Dunn), Carl Gizzi, Rahman Ali, and Jack Bodell. The win over Ali, brother of course of “The Greatest,” took place on the Ali-Frazier under-card of March 8, 1971. This was one victory to be treasured, and it is a real shame, as well as a quite ironic fact, that Danny has passed away on this, the 50th anniversary of that amazing fight. McAlinden picked up a sweet victory of his own the night “Smokin’ Joe” won with the entire world watching.
It was in June of 1972 when McAlinden stopped Jack Bodell in two rounds to win the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles. In 1975, McAlinden was stopped by Bunny Johnson, losing the British and Commonwealth titles. Later that same year, Danny failed in an attempt to regain the two titles, being stopped in a return fight with Dunn. McAlinden retired in 1981 with a 31-12-2(28) record. There was a time, in 1973, when McAlinden was being strongly considered as new world heavyweight champ George Foreman’s first challenger (the honor instead going to Joe “King” Roman). Danny wouldn’t have won that one, yet the payday and the publicity the fight might have brought him may well have changed his life.
As it is, McAlinden made his mark on the sport, on the heavyweight division, and he fought a number of big names. Along with going in against Ali, Bodell, Gizzi, Dunn, and Johnson, Danny faced one Jack O’Halloran, the giant who would go on to receive worldwide fame as an actor (playing, among other characters, the mute villain “Non” in the two original ‘Superman’ movies). McAlinden lost that one on points. In total, McAlinden was stopped eight times during his career, yet he always came to fight and fight hard.
Our condolences go out to Danny’s family and friends.