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.
The boxing magazine said it was righting a wrong by retroactively naming the late heavyweight great as the best fighter of 1966.
“The editors at that time obviously felt strongly that Ali, while succeeding in the ring, didn’t meet other criteria they deemed important,” said Michael Rosenthal, the magazine’s editor-in-chief. “But we can see the injustice by today’s standards even if we take issue with some of things Ali said and did.”
Ali won all five of his fights in 1966, and did so in impressive fashion. He was at the peak of his career, which was soon to be interrupted for three years while he fought courts over his refusal to be drafted.
But the magazine declined to name a fighter of the year for only the second time, saying Ali – who Ring called by his former name, Cassius Clay – did not meet the moral criteria for the award.
“Most emphatically is Cassius Clay, of Louisville, Ky., not to be held up as an example to the youngsters of the United States,” wrote Dan Daniel, a co-founder of the magazine, at the time.
Ali would later have his conscientious objector status upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, and resumed fighting in 1970. He was named the magazine’s fighter of the year in 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1978 along with his original award in 1963.
The story on the retroactive award, as well as the original 1967 story, will be in Ring’s March 2017 issue.