Muhammad Ali’s last knockout victory came against brave Bradford scaffolder Richard Dunn, who left the ring with no regrets.
At the time of the fight in 1976, The Greatest was 34 years old and in his second reign as heavyweight champion of the world.
Two years prior, in 1974, Ali had defeated George Foreman to reclaim the crown in the “Rumble in the Jungle” and emerged victorious in his trilogy fight with Joe Frazier – the “Thrilla in Manila” – in 1975.
The first half of the following year saw the champion make three defenses in four months against lesser challengers.
The third of them was to be against the European champion in Munich.
Germany’s Bernd August was lined up for the task and had to put up one last fight with the British and Commonwealth champion to secure his place as Ali’s next contender.
The Briton, Dunn, hasn’t even been able to devote himself fully to boxing, sticking to his job as a scaffolder during his career and not being able to afford sparring partners.
He was thought to be a very winnable fight for August, having already suffered nine defeats in his career, while the German had only been beaten twice before.
However, Dunn had other ideas and produced the performance of his life, stopping August in three sets to win the European title and take his place against Ali.
Therefore, on May 24, 1976, he was the one who traveled to Munich to fight The Greatest, becoming an overnight celebrity when the fight was announced.
Dunn instantly became known locally and was even surprised with an episode of This Is Your Life in the prep.
Ali featured on the program and took the opportunity to address the suggestion that Dunn’s southpaw stance might trouble him.
The famous fantasy speaker replied, “I don’t care if it’s nordpaw, southpaw, eastpaw or westpaw, it doesn’t matter what paw you are when I get you.”
In the fight itself, Ali was right.
Dunn gave a solid narrative, trying everything he could to confuse the champion and leaving the ring knowing he had done his best.
In the end, however, he was significantly overrun and found himself on the ground five times.
The final knockdown came in round five, as Dunn was crushed by a lightning-fast short right hand that Ali later revealed he learned from taekwondo grandmaster Jhoon Rhee.
Rhee described it as the “AccuPunch” and explained that he learned it from the legendary Bruce Lee, which piqued Ali’s interest.
The idea was that the “AccuPunch” would be a remarkably fast shot based on human reaction time, which would have to be executed so quickly that it had already landed before the opponent’s brain could react to block it.
Without divulging all the secrets of the technique, Ali said: “It works at the exact moment you decide to strike, and there is no lag time.
“It’s instantaneous. It moves at lightning speed without warning and accelerates like a bullet in flight. You can barely see it.
After being hit with the incredibly fast right hand, Dunn got up on his unsteady legs and referee Herbert Tomser mercifully left the contest while Ali demonstrated by quickly spinning his right arm to delight the crowd German.
There was no shame in Dunn’s loss – in fact, the reaction was quite the opposite.
When he returned home to Bradford after being knocked out he was given a parade as if he had won, thousands of people showed up to congratulate him as he was driven around in a convertible.
“It was the biggest surprise of my life,” Dunn later said of the hero’s welcome, “I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what to say. I was stunned.
For Ali, it would turn out to be the last knockout victory of his historic career.
He once again showed his famous ability to predict in which round he would finish his fights. Written inside one of his gloves were the words ‘Ali wins’, while the other bore ‘Round five’.
The Greatest won three more point defenses before losing and regaining the title in two bouts with Leon Spinks.
When Ali returned after this, he was heavily beaten by Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick, forcing him to retire.
Dunn’s knockout, with help from Bruce Lee, was Ali’s final punch.
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