I'm curious. He was 6'3, 206 pounds in the 1960s. Why didn't he pack a hard punch like someone like, say, Lennox Lewis, who was only two inches taller? Or even George Foreman who was an inch taller.
As far as weight goes, Joe Louis and Joe Frazier also weighed 203-206 but they were big punchers, but why wasn't Ali who weighed the same?
Ali was ~ 212 at his peak, like against Cleveland Williams in '66, THAT is a great fight to watch. Though Williams has been described as literally & figuratively shot (by a cop, lost over 10 feet of small intestine) before that, after the Ali fight The Big Cat still had a 20-7 record, not bad when you consider boxers decline before they retire anyway.
Back to Ali's punch prowess. He was 215-into the 220's in the '70's, & hit a little harder then often due to "sitting down" on his punches more. Also looked more filled out...But while he always threw a lot of flicking punches, those could discombobulate you, & he was an unusual HW who could fight going backwards-if you were charging forward & were caught, that increases the force of a punch.
Also while Ali never had a great single KO punch or great power for an elite HW, at times such as finishing guys, he could pop. He could hit pretty hard by any normal standards, just not on the level of a great slugger. And the accumulation of damage + his lightning fast combinations could easily get the job done.
But I challenge folks to find fault with it. From the ending quote with another fighter he beat at his peak, before the unfortunate exile:
Stylistically and size wise, the closest fighter to Louis that Ali fought was Zora Folley. Folley's height, weight, and reach are almost identical to Joe's and his stance and footwork was similar to that of Louis. Folley was also a boxer/puncher who looked to counter and exploit his opponents mistakes. In fairness Folley did not possess the power of Louis nor the handspeed when punching in combination. Folley did bring a respectable a 74-7-7 with 43 KO's record into the Ali fight and despite being past his prime at 34 years of age, he was undefeated in 4 years. In their 1967 fight Ali completely dominated Folley. With trainer Angelo Dundee predicting a 4th round KO, Ali chose not to throw a meaningful punch until the 4th and when he did he floored Folley with a single right hand. Ali did what he pleased and stopped Folley in the 7th. This was Ali at his peak. Never getting hit with a meaningful punch, Ali toyed with, connected at will and stopped an 85 fight 14 year veteran who had been undefeated in 4 years. Consider the words of Zora Folley:
"Louis wouldn't have a chance; he was too slow... There's no way to train yourself for what he does. The moves, the speed, the punches and the way he changes style every time you think you got him figured. The right hands Ali hit me with just had no business landing but they did. They came from nowhere. Many times he was in the wrong position but he hit me anyway. I've never seen anyone who could do that. The knockdown punch was so fast that I never saw it. He has lots of snap, and when the punches land they dizzy your head; they fuzz up your mind. He's smart. The trickiest fighter I've seen. He's had twenty-nine fights and acts like he's had a hundred. He could write the book on boxing, and anyone that fights him should be made to read it."
- Zora Folley
Sports Illustrated April 10, 1967
I will point out Ali DID have well over 100 fights just as an amateur, let alone the LHW Olympic Gold...
Muhammad Ali - Boxrec Boxing Encyclopaedia
Jump to Amateur Achievements - There have been various amateur records accredited to Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali. 100-5, 127-5, 134-7, 137-7, and ...
Powerful punching is about many factors timing technique delivery. Hitters like Foreman, Tyson Shavers seemed to have this power naturally & emanates from their natural instinct to fight on the offensive. I dabbled in Karate, Kung Fu years ago & was told when throwing a punch deliver it like you are punching through an opponent as opposed to just hitting them. I think Bruce Lee's philosophy was hit with meaning hence his apparent ability to deliver a 1" punch with immense power. My 5'8" 180lb Kung Fu teacher sent me flying demonstrating this punch which he explained was all about focus, using the hips & timing releasing all the energy at the point of impact & following through. Ali's style never leant itself to power but was more built around speed & combinations as much of the time he fought back pedalling whilst delivering lighting fast combinations an art in itself. As Foley has explained this can be just as effective as a method of dispatching an opponent & doing terrible damage with more stinging power, remember "float like a butterfly & sting like a Bee", just look at Frazier’s face following the 1st bout & he was the winner. Sure Ali was not a powerful puncher per say but more than compensated with his ability in other departments
Lennox was two inches taller and weighed in the 240-250 range. That's much bigger than Muhammad Ali. Lennox was always strong but he grew into a real muscular heavyweight.
This. Lennox fought during the weight-lifting era. He put on muscle to increase punching power. Whereas Lennox preferred power, Ali preferred speed. Ali kept himself trim and light so he could dance and maintain his trademark speed.
I did notice that Ali gradually went up in weight. He weighed 206 during the Sonny Liston rematch but was 212 when he knocked out Cleveland Williams.
As for power, Ali punched as he moved away, which drastically reduces the impact. When he planted his feet and threw punches, they obviously hurt more, as they did against Williams and in the first Frazier fight.
Also, Ali didn't throw many power punches. He relied on the jab and straight right. Those are arm punches, plus he threw them as he retreated which further reduced the impact. Had he planted his feet and threw hooks and uppercuts, he would have hurt much more.
As others have said, it was the culmination of his flurries that would wear you down.
Right. Larry Holmes was the same way. More emphasis on speed and jab than on power. I think Shannon Briggs and Evander Holyfield had both down pat. They were good boxers with good speed on hand and feet but they can slug, especially Shannon. Shannon was to me a cross between the Ali/Holmes school with the modern bulk and power of the Tyson/Lewis generation. But he lacked the skills of any of the four.
Ali did all the wrong things to pack a mean punch. Joe Louis and Evander Holyfield were smaller than Ali but they punched noticeably harder because they kept their feet planted firm and unloaded with the proper snap and leverage. Even Floyd Patterson could fight as a slugger.
Despite weight, you can't compare Ali to someone like Frazier in terms of power. Frazier had short muscular arms. When he gets close and lands a hook or an uppercut it'll shatter ya. Ali had long arms so he stuck to long range punches that don't do a lot of physical damage but accumulative damage.
If you hit a man while you're standing on your toes, you ain't gonna hurt em'. You need leverage, a sense of distance and proper shoulder snap.
But I think the Muhammad Ali style was more about footwork, speed and ring generalship than about hard hitting. Anyone else notice that most of the Muhammad Ali wannabes that came along later (Holmes, Biggs, Nicholson, Tillis, Byrd, etc) also couldn't punch worth a damn?