The Ring Magazine is making Muhammad Ali its 1966 Fighter of the Year, a half century after refusing to give him the award because of his disapproval of the draft for the Vietnam War and connection with the Nation of Islam.
Ali went 5-0 in 1966, beating George Chuvalo, Henry Cooper, Brian London, Karl Mildenberger and Cleveland Williams – stopping all but Chuvalo inside the distance.
However, due to his refusal to be drafted into the US army to fight in Vietnam and his association with the Nation of Islam, The Ring Magazine took the unusual step of not giving out the award that year.
Speaking about the decision, current Editor-in-Chief Michael Rosenthal said: “The editors at that time obviously felt strongly that Ali, while succeeding in the ring, didn’t meet other criteria they deemed important but we can see the injustice by today’s standards even if we take issue with some of things Ali said and did.
“Bottom line: He was punished for standing up for his beliefs and his association with a controversial organization, factors that almost certainly wouldn’t preclude a worthy candidate from winning a similar award today,” he added.
A supreme court decision in 1971 vindicated Ali’s stance on the war by a vote of 8-0.
Ali has now The Ring award a record six times : 1963, 1966, 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1978.