FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — As the world mourns the death of Muhammad Ali there’s a West Virginia connection.
Ali’s professional boxing career got its start against former longtime Fayetteville Police Chief Tunney Hunsaker.
Ali died Friday at the age of 74 following a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.
Ali, then Cassius Clay, was only 18 and fresh off an Olympic Gold Medal winning performance in the Rome Olympics, when he stepped into the ring for his first professional fight against the older Hunsaker, an experienced heavyweight with more than two dozen professional fights under his belt.
It was Oct. 29, 1960, and there were 6,000 people in Freedom Hall in Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Ky. The fight went six rounds with Ali winning on the cards of all three judges.
Ali would later say Hunsaker’s pro-style had given him trouble in the ring. Hunsaker, whose boxing career would end in 1962, said he took one of the hardest body blows of his career from the young Clay.
Hunsaker, who spent nearly three decades as Fayetteville’s police chief, died in 2005. He was also 74 at the time of his death.