In 1979, Mile High Stadium played host to one of the more fascinating events of its time: an exhibition match between boxing legend Muhammad Ali and former Broncos defensive end Lyle Alzado.
In 1979, boxing great Muhammad Ali fought then-Broncos defensive end Lyle Alzado in an exhibition match at Mile High Stadium. (AP Images)
Ali, who passed away Friday, was past his physical peak and admitted as much at the time, going as far as to acknowledge that he did no training to prepare for the 30-year-old, two-time Pro Bowl defensive end.
"I'm way overweight; I've done a little bit of runnin', but I have enough to whip any football player in the world in the ring," Ali said. "It took me 25 years to throw a left jab, to learn how to dance the moves to pace yourself. Ain't no man who can come out of football and jump into my field now and master Muhammad Ali."
But Alzado wasn't completely inexperienced; he was a talented amateur boxer during his college years, going as far as the semifinals in the 1969 Midwest Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament.
Alzado was an underdog, but like another underdog boxer going against a great, he thought he had a chance.
"Rocky was crazy, too," Alzado said. "If I didn't think that I could do well and have an opportunity and chance to beat him, I wouldn't be getting in the ring. You know, I'm fighting against the man who's probably done more than any athlete in the past century, but at the same time, I'm not afraid of anybody, physically."
After brief grappling to begin the first round, Ali showed the skills he had honed for so many years. Light on his feet, Ali landed a short flurry of punches through Alzado's defense before then throwing a left jab and right hook with Alzado's face unguarded. Ever the showman, Ali feinted fatigue during a lull in the round, but Alzado followed with some body punches when he got Ali against the ropes. As the clock neared zero, the crowd roared with cheers and laughter as Alzado backed away from Ali, all while the Broncos lineman let his arms down and shaked his rear, prompting Ali to do the same.
The two boxed before an estimated 20,000 fans, which included then-head coach Red Miller. It was an unscored eight-round exhibition, but announcers gave Ali the unofficial decision.
The Orange Crush defensive end's defense did not seem to translate to boxing, and his offense couldn't faze Ali, either. But the two gave the crowd an entertaining match. Each boxer had their moments landing punches, and each had their moments taunting the other. After Ali landed one big blow, Alzado simply shook his head.
But as Ali often did, he backed up his words from before the match, refusing to be beat by the football player. Some of Alzado's words came true, too, though not in the way he may have hoped. Alzado went toe-to-toe with a great, lasted the entire bout, but he did not come out the victor -- just like Rocky.