Larry Holmes proved he was The Heavyweight Chamption tonight, battering Muhammad Ali for 10 rounds before Ali's trainer, Angelo Dundee, asked referee Richard Green to stop the fight.
The end of this one-sided contest, for the World Boxing Council's share of the title, came with the proud 38-year-old former champion sitting on his stool in his corner between the 10th and 11th rounds. It was officially recorded as an 11th-round technical knockout.
Holmes, unbeaten in 38 fights, had won every round on the scorecards of the three judges.
"He (Ali) couldn't do anything," Dundee said of his decision to call for the end of the fight. "He had nothing left. He wanted to punch me, but I told him that was all."
It was Ali's fourth defeat in 60 fights, and while the former champion was bitterly disappointed, he had earned $8 million, plus a percentage of the ancillary revenue.
Ali and another cornerman, Drew (Bundini) Brown, both wanted the fight to continue, despite Holmes' dominance and the 89-degree heat. While they were arguing, Pat Patterson, Ali's bodyguard, leaned over the ropes and shouted to Herbert Muhammad, Ali's manager: "What do you want done?"
The manager replied, "Stop it." He's getting defenseless." So Dundee got his wish, and referee Green signaled the end of the fight.
Holmes was punching the ghost of the one-time peerless fighter who became a legend and symbol far beyond the bounds of a prize-fight ring.
Holmes was not shaken up at all, except for a few right crosses that Ali threw in hopes of ending the fight early.
Ali had reduced from 252 pounds to 217 1/2 in training since April. But his age, 38, and the oppressive heat at the outdoor fight here put it all beyond his reach tonight.
Just before the fight, Ali acted as if he could not wait to get at Holmes, but it proved to be an empty gesture. Holmes refused to be flustered by Ali's attempt to psych him. He calmly stood off and punched carefully at Ali when the former champion went into his rope-a-dope defense and was undistrubed by Ali's clowing.
It became obvious early on that Ali no longer has the left jab that once was the best in the business. Holmes beat him to the punch time and again with the jarring effect. It was Holmes who had the hand speed tonight, beating Ali to the punch with right crosses and uncoiling combinations that Ali could not react to.
A couple of times during the bout the crowd set up the old chant of "Ali . . . Ali" But it was a quiet crowd after the first couple of rounds, as it became clear that Ali had virtually no hope of becoming the first man to win the heavyweight championship four times.
The confusion in Ali's corner at the finish probably cut off what would have been a farewell ovation for his gallant effort.
One of the unusual aspects of the end of Ali's career was the sight of his face puffing up from the direct shots by Holmes, who often had a savage expression as he tried to cut down the man he thinks has been robbing him of true recognition as the champion.
Holmes acknowledged before the bout that it was a no-win situation for him. He said he knew if he beat Ali everyone would say it was because Ali was an old man. On the other hand, if he lost to Ali, everyone would call him a "bum."
But Holmes may be in for a surprise, for he demonstrated exceptional skills tonight.
Holmes did not tire after eight rounds as some predicted. Holmes now would like to unify the championship by disposing of Mike Weaver, the World Boxing Association champion.
For Ali, after 20 years in the ring, it was the fourth loss and the first time he ever was stopped. His other losses were to Joe Frazier, Ken Norton and Leon Spinks, all champions at one time.
Holmes began ranking Ali with jabs in the first round, then hooked off of some of those jabs and snapped off right crosses to Ali's face as the one-time champion rushed him.
Ali began clowning as early as the second round which, in retrospect seems a tipoff that he knew he did not have the strength, reflexes or power to make Holmes respect him.
The first alarm for Ali came in the fourth round, when Holmes not only raised a mouse under Ali's left eye, but also caused his nose to bleed. In a desperate attempt to break up Holmes' assault, Ali held Holmes with one glove behind his neck and tried to punch him with the other. The referee gave Ali a warning.
In the fifth round, Holmes took solid command. First, Ali tried his rope-a-dope defense and, when that strategy failed, he began dancing stylishly. rBut Holmes continued to jab, landed a three-punch combination and then scored with six straight left hooks without a return punch from Ali.
In the sixth, Holmes landed five straight jabs and, in desperation, Ali went into a crouch and tried to hold off the champ with jabs to the body.
Holmes had another big round in the seventh. Ali tried to flurry near the end of the session but took a hard combination of punches to the head.
The beginning of the end was the eighth round, when Holmes connected with a right uppercut followed by a left hook. Ali got in a good right just before the bell, but Holmes countered with two right hands that knocked him sideways. t
Ali was swinging wildly in the ninth and was hit with a low blow by Holmes.
In the last round, Ali scored with three picture jabs, reminiscent of Ali at his peak. Ali, as if trying to fool somebody -- Holmes, the officials or the fans -- motioned for Holmes to come in and fight. He did.
Holmes, unimpressed, then embarassed Ali by uppercutting off a right cross and launching a left hook, a right cross and combinations of punches that convinced Dundee and manager Muhammad that the only thing in Ali's immediate future was more purposeless punishment.
Ali did not appear at the postfight news conference and reportedly was taken back to his hotel suite.
"Ali was a great champion, but we all come and we all go," said Holmes. "Now people all over the world will know me as a champion."
Dundee asked that the fight be stopped, he said, "because there was nothing left after the ninth round. The only way he could win was on a knockout and in the condition he was in he wasn't about to knock out anybody."
Judge Chuck Minker of Las Vegas scored it 100-90, as did Richard Steele of Las Angeles. Duane Ford of Las Vegas had it 100-89.