WORLD heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, locked in a battle with the US Government over the Vietnam conflict, focused his attentions on human granite ball, George Chuvalo of Canada.

13,918 fans watched a gruelling 15-round tussle, the longest Ali had been taken, inside Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens on March 29 1966. Chuvalo, a man of frightening durability, was thoroughly outboxed but handed the Kentuckian his toughest fight to date – despite taking the fight at very short notice – hacking at Ali’s body and hurting him on several occasions.

“He went to hospital because he was pissing blood after our fight,” the Canadian would say years after his loss. “I took my wife dancing.”

“He’s the toughest guy I ever fought,” Ali said after the contest.

Despite his injuries, it was a sublime performance and showed the world, whether they liked it or not, that Muhammad Ali was the real deal.