Jim Brown is one of the most competitive athletes to ever live. We know this because the Cleveland Browns legend has never been one to turn down a challenge — no matter what the contest. As crazy as it may sound, there was a point in the mid 1960s where Brown wanted to box Muhammad Ali.
No, he wasn’t joking. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated recently sat down with 80-year-old Bob Arum, who is the most powerful promoter in boxing today and one of the most influential in fighting history. It was Brown who introduced Arum to Ali, and Brown who decided a fight between one of the greatest athletes in sports history the greatest fighter of all-time would bring home a fortune. Arum proposed the idea to Ali, and this is how it went from there.
“So I went to talk to Ali,” Arum recalled. “He says, ‘Jim wants to do what? Bring him here.’ So I took him to Hyde Park in London, where Ali used to run. Ali said, ‘Jimmy, here’s what we’re going to do: You hit me as hard as you can.’ So Brown starts swinging and swinging, and he can’t hit him. He’s swinging wildly and not even coming close. This goes on for, like, 30 seconds. Then Ali hits him with this quick one-two to his face. Jimmy just stops and says, ‘OK, I get the point.’”
That sounds about right. Brown is all about challenges. Remember the time he played and lost to Andre Agassi when Agassi was only 9 years old? He may be the greatest running back of all time and the greatest lacrosse player to ever live, but it’s no surprise to hear he backed down from Ali after realizing he wouldn’t last 15 seconds. Would everyone involved have made a lot of money? Yes. Would it have been worth the embarrassment for the Cleveland legend? Probably not.
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