In this 1954 file photo, boxer Cassius Clay is shown. Long before his dazzling footwork and punching prowess made him a three-time world heavyweight boxing champion known as Muhammad Ali, a young Cassius Clay honed his skills by sparring with neighborhood friends and running alongside the bus on the way to school.
The storied professional boxing career of the great Muhammad Ali (pictured) began on this day in 1960. Then — under his birth-given name Cassius Clay — the Louisville, Ky., native defeated a West Virginia police chief in a six-round decision.
Tunney Hunsaker was a police chief for the town of Fayettville and faced off against the 18-year-old Clay after the fleet-footed pugilist amassed a stellar amateur and Olympic career. At 30 years of age, Hunsaker was outmatched by the tall, lean Clay and his face was battered at the end of the match.
A 1960 report from the Courier-Journal offers a detailed account of the match, which began a streak of 19 straight wins for Clay.
Transcribed by BoxRec.com:
Olympic light heavyweight champion Cassius Clay of Louisville finished his first professional fight streaked in blood — that of his battered opponent — Tunney Hunsaker.
18-year-old Clay, turning in a classy, confident performance against a heavier and slower opponent last night at Freedom Hall, won every round of the six from the 30-year-old police chief from Fayetteville, W. Va.
At the final bell, Clay, appearing almost as fresh as when he started, was splattered with blood from Hunsaker’s nose and a cut over the West Virginian’s eye. The eye was swollen almost shut after the fight.
Hunsaker had praise for Clay in his dressing room as he nursed his bruised eye.
‘He’s awfully good for an 18-year-old and as fast as a middleweight,’ he said. Hunsaker said he thought he won the first and last rounds and said Clay never hurt him at any time.
Watch a clip of Ali’s first fight below:
Clay received a purse of $2,000 for the fight, where Hunsaker earned $300. The proceeds of the fight went to the Kosair Crippled Children’s Hospital.
Well known for his bold statements, which would go on to mark his career, Clay said of the fight, “I’m ready to go 10 rounds anytime,” he said. “The extra weight slowed me down just a little bit, not enough to hurt.”
Ali would later face a bevy of older and experienced fighters before losing to Joe Frazier in 1971, the first of an epic trio of matches that ended with the classic “Thrilla In Manilla” battle in 1975.