Cassius Clay vs Tunney Hunsaker (partially found footage of boxing match; 1960)
On 29th October 1960, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) faced Tunney Hunsaker in a professional heavyweight boxing match. Occurring in front of 6,180 at the Freedom Hall in Louisville, it was Clay's first professional fight, with him winning the six-round encounter via a unanimous decision.
Even before his first ranked fight, Cassius Clay had already gained boxing accolades. At the 1960 Summer Olympics, he defeated Poland's Zbigniew Pietrzykowski to win gold in the light heavyweight division. In contrast, Tunney Hunsaker, a 30-year-old who was the Fayetteville, West Virginia police chief, had suffered a poor run of form, losing six consecutive fights including against then-world title contenders Tom McNeeley and Ernie Terrell. According to BoxRec, his professional fight record was at 17-9-1 prior to this clash. Nevertheless, while Clay was considered the favourite going in, Hunsaker maintained that he still believed he had a chance of winning, stating "I heard he won the Olympics, so I knew I was fighting a tough bird, but I don't think there was ever a fighter - not a good one anyway - who went in the ring thinking he was gonna get beat. I know I never did." All net revenue generated from the encounter would be directed to the Kosair Crippled Children's Hospital. Hunsaker also recalled that he and Clay met at a sports store to promote the fight, noting that while Clay was messing around with a basketball, he displayed signs of nervousness and apprehension.
The bout took place at the Freedom Hall with around 6,180 in attendance. Considering Clay's later career, it perhaps came as no surprise when the 18-year-old proceeded to dominate throughout the encounter. Hunsaker recalled that Clay proved incredibly agile for his size, praising him as a heavyweight with the speed of a middleweight. Hunsaker harnessed a variety of maneuverers and techniques to try and unbalance the younger boxer. However, this only intensified Clay, enhancing his overall performance. From every position, he was able to land blows without sustaining hits himself. By the third round, several Clay blows inflicted a nosebleed, with Hunsaker suffering a cut to his right eye in the fourth. Despite the match's brutality, Hunsaker held on for all six rounds, sustaining swollen and near-shut eyes by the time the fight ended. Clay won all six rounds and achieved victory via a unanimous decision.
Post-bout, Hunsaker predicted Clay would be a future world champion. This proved true when on 25th February 1964, Clay defeated Sonny Liston to win the World Heavyweight Championship. Muhammad Ali has since been declared as one of the greatest boxers of all-time, with a professional record of 56-5. Hunsaker meanwhile competed until a KO loss to Joe Shelton on 6th April 1962 caused him to suffer a brain hemorrhage and require two subsequent brain operations, forcing his retirement from the ring. Nevertheless, Hunsaker and Ali remained in touch, the latter even appearing at the police chief's retirement party in 1992.
A cameraman was present during the Clay-Hunsaker fight, with a newsreel showcasing some in-ring action and Clay's hand being raised upon being declared the victor. However, as the recording was intended for a newsreel with a limited runtime, most footage of the six-round event was cut from the final product. Thus, only key highlights of Clay's first-ever professional bout is publicly available with the uncut tape's fate remaining unknown.
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- ESPN summarising the bout and noting its brutality. Retrieved 24 Jan '23
- The Herald Scotland summarising the encounter and Hunsaker's recollection of it. Retrieved 24 Jan '23
- Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times detailing the bout and Hunsaker's full comments surrounding it. Retrieved 24 Jan '23
- BoxRec detailing Ali's fight record. Retrieved 24 Jan '23
- BoxRec detailing Hunsaker's fight record. Retrieved 24 Jan '23
- Fight poster sold on Heritage Auctions. Retrieved 24 Jan '23
- History detailing Clay's win over Liston for the World Heavyweight Championship. Retrieved 24 Jan '23