Wednesday, 02 August 2017 00:00

Muhammad Ali: (Ludicrous) New book reveals punches absorbed

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How many punches did fight legend Muhammad Ali take during his career?

Jonathan Eig attempts to answer that in his upcoming biography of Ali, per a recent article on WTOP.

According to the aforementioned publication, Ali once estimated the number to be 29,000 but the 'correct' number is revealed in Eig's new book.

Yes, by analyzing video tapes and working with Compubox statisticians, Eig thinks he can deliver that number.

“I think those numbers are really going to shock people,” Eig said via WTOP.


What's shocking is the fact someone other than 'The Greatest' thinks they can make an accurate assessment of how many times he was punched.


Muhammad Ali had 61 professional bouts, over 180 amateur fights and numerous sparring sessions as a pro and amateur. While it might be relatively easy to surmise how many shots to the head he received in his prizefights, there's no way to know the countless punches he absorbed during sparring and as an amateur.

And no, anyone who has boxed before can tell you head gear used in sparring does not prevent dizziness, headaches, knockouts or unconsciousness. Hence, head gear does not protect fighters from any residual head injury that may accompany those symptoms.

Now, imagine the hundreds of rounds Ali may have sparred to prepare himself for a mere 10, 12 or 15 round fight. And that doesn't include the countless rounds he sparred in preparation for his 180+ amateur bouts.

Although Muhammad Ali likely absorbed his hardest shots during professional bouts against the likes of George Foreman, Joe Frazier and Earnie Shavers, the cumulative effect of sparring over the course of 30 years certainly contributed to his subsequent state IF Parkinson's was the result of boxing at all.

Can it be proven Ali's Parkinson's Syndrome was even caused by boxing?

Keep in mind, over 99 percent of people with Parkinson's have never boxed a day in their life.  

The professional career of boxing legend Archie Moore spanned nearly 30 years and 219 professional fights, more than 3x the number of Ali's. Can you imagine number of times he was hit in sparring alone? Nevertheless, Moore was sharp and witty into his late 70s/early 80s and, as a trainer, even helped Big George Foreman regain the heavyweight title at the age of 45.

Moore, at 80 and after 200+ professional fights, was in arguably better cognitive shape than a lot of people his age who had never competed in boxing, MMA or any other violent sport.

Also, fight legend Jake LaMotta, a veteran of over 100 fights and a straight-up brawler whose raw and courageous style seemingly invited head injury, was still going strong at 90 and remained active and alert, holding speak engagements, signing autographs and promoting his books.

But, let's give Eig the benefit of the doubt and assume Ali's condition was caused by boxing...

Again, how can anyone possibly know how many times Ali was head-punched from age 8, when he started boxing, to age 38 when he finally hung 'em up?

Secondly, not all punches are created equal. Anyone who has boxed will assert this.

A jab is usually not as hard as a power shot.

Moreover, fighters, especially guys like Ali, will often roll with punches. Even when being tagged, they are not always absorbing the punch cleanly because they're rolling their head in the same direction as the punch.

Simple physics.

How is Eig going to measure those?

While this book is presumably well-intended, the data being used to estimate the number of punches Muhammad Ali absorbed makes that element of the book highly flawed and farcical, and disrespectful to the sport.

Leroy Cleveland

Lee is Managing Editor of, a student of the Sweet Science and longtime boxing fan.