Jimmy Ellis, one of the top fighters during what most refer to as the greatest heavyweight era in boxing history, has passed away at the age of 74. He had been battling Alzheimer's Disease for the past few years, and died while under care at the Baptist Health Hospital in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
Early in Ellis' professional career, he was a sparring partner for his friend and fellow Louisville citizen Muhammad Ali. However, unlike the usual sparring partner stereotype, Ellis was quite good, owning a successful amateur career before becoming one of the top heavyweights of the late '60's and early '70's.
Ellis won an eight-man tournament in 1968 to claim the WBA title that had been stripped from Muhammad Ali after Ali had his boxing license revoked for his refusal to be drafted into the United States military. Ellis made one successful defense, against Floyd Patterson, that saw him survive a broken nose to take home a controversial decision. He lost his title to a prime Joe Frazier in 1970 via fifth-round stoppage.
Ellis would go on to face Ali the next year after Ali had returned to boxing and lost to Frazier in one of the biggest events in sports history. Ellis was stopped by his friend in the 12th round. Ellis' fight with Ali is most notable for the fact that it's the only bout that Angelo Dundee, who trained both Ellis and Ali, did not work in Ali's corner. He chose to be with Ellis.
In addition to Patterson, he defeated Jerry Quarry, George Chuvalo, and Leotis Martin, among others. Notable names he lost to, in addition to Ali and Frazier, are Earnie Shavers, Ron Lyle, Joe Bugner, George Benton, and Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. Ellis retired in 1975 with a record of 40-12-1 (24 KO's).
Bad Left Hook sends our condolences to the family and friends of Jimmy Ellis.