Folley, Zora

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    Zora Folley was a heavyweight boxer who was best known for his fight against Cassius Clay, later Muhammad Ali, at Madison Square Garden.  Zora.JPGThis 6’1” boxer had a professional record of 79 wins and 11 losses (43 of those wins were knockouts). Folley moved to Chandler with his family in 1942, and joined the Army in 1948.  While in the Army, he began boxing and won the 6th Army title, the All-Army championship, and the All-Services title.  Upon his discharge in 1953 he signed a professional boxing contract.

    Folley fought, and defeated, many of the top contenders for the heavyweight title, including Eddie Mechan, Oscar Bonavena, and Doug Jones among others.  On December 5, 1965, he met and defeated future light heavyweight champion Bob Foster in New Orleans.  Folley won by unanimous decision in 10 rounds.

    Finally, in 1967, at the age of 34 and past his prime, Folley got the opportunity to fight for the Heavyweight Champion of the World title against Cassius Clay.  Folley was one of the first to call the Champion by his Muslim name, Muhammad Ali.  For his part, Ali held a deep respect for Folley, and admitted to feeling nervous leading up to the fight.  He also said that Folley was one of the nicest men he knew, which would make it difficult to fight him.  Prior to the match, Folley's manager is rumored to have said that Ali "couldn't hit."

    The match was broadcast live on the radio, and hundreds of Chandler residents turned out to the football field behind Chandler High School to listen as their hero took on The Greatest.  Their match lasted seven rounds before Ali knocked Folley out.  Afterwards, Ali was very complimentary of Folley, and stated that he was glad he hadn't faced Folley in his younger days or the result may have been very different.

    Folley boxed for three more years before retiring to Chandler where he and his wife, Joella, raised nine children.  Folley was appointed to the Chandler City Council, but only served a short time before he died in a tragic poolside incident at a hotel in Tucson in 1972.  Folley is memorialized with Zora Folley Park and Folley Street in Chandler.  He was posthumously inducted into the Chandler Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.

    To see pictures of Zora Folley, click here

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