Thursday 27 April 2017

Ali Refuses US Army Draft – 50 Years On

With Anthony Joshua preparing to defend his IBF Heavyweight title against Wladimir Klitschko this weekend, I thought a boxing related anniversary was in order (the fight is also for the vacant WBA and IBO belts).

Fifty years ago tomorrow (28th April 1967), American world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army after being drafted to fight in the Vietnam War.

Ali in 1967
Ali, a devout Muslim, cited religious reasons for his refusal saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” 

Consequently, he was arrested, had his boxing license suspended, and was
stripped of his title.

On trial, held on 20th June, he was found guilty of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000 and banned from boxing for three years. However, he stayed out of prison whilst on appeal.

In Later Years
Whilst being unable to box, he spent time giving inspirational speeches at schools and colleges.

The Supreme Court overturned the decision in June 1971, but by then he had lost 4 years’ boxing time when he would have been in the prime of his career.

He regained his world heavyweight titles again both in 1974 and 1978, becoming the only fighter to be heavyweight champion of the World on three occasions.