By Bob Ryder
Photos: Bob Ryder
Former heavyweight contender of the late 1960’s-early 1970’s Al “Blue” Lewis passed away on January 21 in his hometown of Detroit having just turned 75 on December 11. Lewis was best known for his gallant effort against Muhammad Ali in 1972 in which he gave “The Greatest” a good tussle before succumbing by eleventh round TKO. Lewis also had previously served as a sparring partner for Ali.
Lewis first reached contender status with his exciting TKO of then highly ranked Eduardo Corletti in 1968 at the old Olympia Stadium in which he knocked Corletti out of the ring in the first round. He engaged in two tough bouts with Leotis Martin, both losses, one by split decision, before running off a seven bout win streak that kept him in the heavyweight picture. He scored a TKO over Cleveland Williams in that streak before heading to Argentina to tangle with Oscar Bonavena. Some reports have Blue getting robbed in the Bonavena fight, others that the DQ 7 ruling for Oscar was correct. Regardless, Lewis landed the Ali fight in Dublin in his very next outing.
Despite his good showing, the Ali fight proved to be Lewis’ last shot at the big time. A decision loss to Jack O’Halloran less than a year later effectively ended his status as a heavyweight contender. Three more wins over non-descript opposition brought Lewis’ final record to 30(19 KOs)-6.
After retiring from the ring, Lewis could often be found in attendance at local cards in and around the Motor City mingling with the fans. He also spent some time training young Detroit amateur boxers.
The last few years were not kind to Blue. He had been hospitalized and treated in extended care facilities. Alzheimer’s Disease robbed him of his speech by the end. No matter, those who knew him will always remember his voice and friendly welcome whenever one crossed his path.