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Late in the career of Muhammad Ali, when he was fighting a string of less than distinguished boxers, the man they called “The Greatest” arrive in Puerto Rico on Jan. 21, 1976, to prepare for his bout with Jean-Pierre Coopman.
The Belgian fighter would offer little resistance to Ali hitting the mat in a 5th round knockout, but Ali himself would get KO’d while on the island by a decidedly paunchier opponent, the TV comedian José Miguel Agrelot, a.k.a. Don Cholito.
Ali appeared on “El Show del Mediodía” (“The Midday Show”) with Agrelot, and the two got into a mock fight, with the Puerto Rican comedian telling the heavyweight champ, “ Everybody in the whole world says you have a big mouth, and you talk too loud.”
When Ali started waving his finger in Agrelot’s face threatening to leave the show, the comedian, who was sporting a straw hat, removed his suit jacket in stereotypical preparation to brawl.
“Don’t put that finger in my face,” Agrelot warned Ali, before slapping the champ, knocking him to the floor and losing his hat in the process.
Ali also held a few exhibitions while on the island, including at the State Penitentiary at Oso Blanco, where he sparred with any inmate who wanted to get into the ring with him.
The champ and Agrelot took their fake beef into the ring as well.
According to boxing fan Arturo Santiago Rubero, who was ringside, “They were play-fighting, fooling around,” he told the Puerto Rican newspaper, El Nuevo Día.
He added, “At one point, Don Cholito fell over, and [singer Iris] Chacón stepped in and like danced to revive him. After [he got up], she distracted Ali, and then Don Cholito took advantage and knocked him out.”
Of all the great rivalries in Ali’s career – Joe Frazier, Sonny Liston, Ken Norton – only Agrelot knocked him down twice.