This week marks the 40th anniversary of the so-called “September to Remember” or “Battle of New Orleans,” the heavyweight championship fight between Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks in the Superdome. In a stunning upset earlier in the year, Spinks defeated Ali, so the New Orleans fight was billed as a must-see rematch.
"This is bigger than four Super Bowls. This is bigger than the World Series, Indianapolis 500. Ain't nothing as big as me!" Ali said to a crowd on Canal Street about a month before the fight. The Sept. 15, 1978 bout drew a crowd of 65,370 to the Superdome, which had opened three years earlier. At the time, it was the largest audience in boxing history.
The all-star crowd included former boxing champ Joe Frazier (who performed the national anthem), Sylvester Stallone, Jerry Lewis, John Travolta and Liza Minnelli. With a victory over Spinks, Ali became the first three-time heavyweight champion. The fight would be the final victory of Ali’s career. He died in 2016.