Leave it to New Jersey’s scrappy politicians to try to land a glove on a boxing legend like Muhammad Ali, but that’s just what former Governor Brendan Byrne and the late Jersey City Mayor Thomas F.X. “Tommie” Smith (pictured above) tried to do when on June 29th, 1979 they climbed into the ring with “The Greatest.”
Staged at the Jersey City Armory to raise money for the Medical Center, the event featured the two Irish American pols trying to match fistic wits with Mr. Ali, who died last night. Apparently Byrne insisted on lacing up first, in part because he thought Smith would try to take Ali’s head off and go the way of Stanley Ketchel in the process.
According to the Jersey Journal, “Byrne had the best figure of the aging trio and he moved like the tennis player he is. …His attitude was completely light in mood, whereas Smith came on serious and was still punching away at the end of round two.”
After serving one term as Jersey City mayor, Smith would go on to lose his 1981 Democratic Primary run for governor in an effort to succeed Byrne.
Of course, Bayonne residents will never forget the incredible effort their native son Chuck Wepner made in his bid for a title on March 24th, 1975. Wepner went 15 rounds with the Champion in the loss. For more on that story, go here.
Rest in Peace, Muhammad Ali.