By Wrangler News Staff
It was March 22, 1967. Two men faced off in the boxing ring at Madison Square Garden, where the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World dangled before them. In the blue corner was the champ, Muhammad Ali. In the red corner stood the challenger, Zora Folley, a hometown hero to the people of Chandler, a man whose career as a gentleman boxer had earned him respect.
The bout that ensued was an event at the crossroads of race, religion, sport and the politics of the 1960s.
Chandler’s next Our Stories speaker program takes a look at these two boxers and the circumstances that weighed heavily on each man when they faced each other in a fight that was to become a turning point in both of their careers.
The speaker series’ newest presentation, “Bigger than Boxing: Muhammad Ali vs. Zora Folley,” is scheduled 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 29, at the Chandler Museum, 300 S. Chandler Village Drive, in West Chandler.
When Folley fought Ali for the Heavyweight title, the two men were very different people.
Both African American, Folley’s reputation was held in high regard; Ali, who had just changed his name from Cassius Clay and refused induction into the military, was often painted by the media as a villain. Many viewed him as controversial because he vocalized his religious and political views through his popularity as a sports figure.
For the coming program, Museum Director Jody Crago will lead the presentation to examine the culture of the time through the combatants’ seven-round fight. “This talk allows us to review a defining moment in American history through the local lens of a Chandler resident,” Crago said.
“The same issues these men faced continue to inspire discussion amongst sports fans today.” This program provides a special sneak peek at the Chandler Museum’s exhibition on the same topic, which will open in the exhibit hall next summer.
The Our Stories initiative presents diverse speakers who share unique Arizona and local history topics to a general audience. It is produced throughout the year by the Chandler Museum, Chandler Public Library, Chandler Historical Society and Friends of the Chandler Public Library.
Editor’s note: In July, West Chandler’s Sunset branch library will host the next program in the series, “Arizona Goes to the Moon,” with Kevin Schindler, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon.