Leon Spinks made history on February 15, 1978, by beating Muhammad Ali on a 15-round decision in Las Vegas. Spinks won the world heavyweight title in his professional eighth fight, the shortest time in its history. Having sparred less than two dozen rounds in preparation for the fight, and coming in seriously out of shape by the opening bell, the aging Ali had expected an easy and lost the title by unanimous decision. It was one of the few occasions when Ali left the ring with a bruised and puffy face. Spinks’ victory over Ali was the peak of his career. He was the only man to take a title from Muhammad Ali in the ring. Ali’s other losses were non-title contests or bouts where Ali was the challenger.
A rematch followed shortly thereafter in New Orleans, which broke attendance records. Ali won a unanimous decision in an uninspiring fight, making him the first heavyweight champion to win the belt three times. Following his victory, Ali retired from boxing, only to make a brief comeback two years later. Ali, who once claimed he could “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” left the sport permanently in 1981.