Very often during the annals of our nation?s history, the American spirit manifested itself in the person of great men and women who, at great cost and risk to themselves and often their families, undertook the pursuit of a great imitative. Dreams that often began as a flicker of the imagination were concluded with astonishing achievements that endured for generations and brought great gain, and often happiness, to millions of Americans.

Men such as Eli Whitney, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Orville and Wilbur Wright and the immortal Walt Disney nurtured the spark of genius that burst in the flames of accomplishment that advanced civilization, both in comfort and spirit, throughout the globe.

Yet there are countless Americans who dedicated their lives to the pursuit of an idea. Innovations that would leave an enduring stamp upon the American landscape, finally attaining fruition many years thereafter, often with little recognition bestowed upon the creator. Great men and women are not always recognized and not properly acknowledged for accomplishments that, when measured in the perspective of decades past, seem quite extraordinary.

In the late 1960s, a man with an idea emerged upon the backdrop of professional boxing at a time when passion, controversy, powerful sentiments and outright confusion reigned in the heavyweight division. Ali, the rightful champion and by far the most dominant heavyweight of his generation, lay in exile. Frazier laid claim to being Ali?s rightful heir yet the WBA Tournament saw the flawed Jimmy Ellis emerge as champion. They met, Joe stopped Ellis, yet little was resolved!

Man had arrived upon the moon and computer technology was edging out of its infancy yet remained a generation away from being a part of the lives of everyday Americans. Mythical, computer driven pairings of the 1927 New York Yankees and the 1976 Cincinnati Reds or the 1985 Chicago Bears and 1959 Baltimore Colts were decades away. Computers were machines of awe and imagination, closer to Flash Gordon than Neil Armstrong.

Yet Murray Woroner had a dream!

Woroner served in World War II in the 566 Bomber Group in the Pacific theatre, serving as a radioman and back up waste gunner. He served in the Korean War and was part of the 39th Troop Carrier Squadron. He attended radio electronics school on the GI Bill and swept floors in a radio station. Eventually he secured employment as a radio reporter in Harlan, Kentucky, covering the rough and tumble fight beat in that hardscrabble rural area. Murray and his wife moved to Amarillo, TX where he cut his teeth on filming, being responsible for submitting filmed news reports for a local radio news station.

He was a conceptualizer and a man of possibilities. By 1968 the incomparable Ali had been stripped of his championship and the heavyweight division was adrift The movement to determine a legitimate successor to Ali, one who would receive public acceptance, was futile. The WBA Elimination Tournament yielded Ellis as a paper Champion and the dominant, uniquely separate rise of Smokin Joe Frazier to succeed Ali saw the Philly slugger pound his way to a five state recognition as world champion.

In 1968, Woroner nurtured the seed of an idea that would capture the imagination of fight fans from Dempsey to Ali. From living rooms to street corner taverns debates had raged for decades over who would prevail if Jack Johnson had swapped leather with Joe Louis, or if the Manassa Mauler had climbed into the four square with Joe Louis. The broadcast executive painstakingly amassed critical historical data featuring 16 Heavyweight Champions of the modern era.

Their strengths and weaknesses. Their abilities to take a punch, their tendency to cut, their fighting heart, their skills. Parrying, bobbing and weaving. All of the essential skillsets that were present in the men who held the World Heavyweight Championship from Fitzsimmons to Ali. Fed into a computer, the ribbons of data were processed into a made for radio tournament that was played out over the airwaves. The final pairing, Rocky Marciano vs. Jack Dempsey resulted in a computer KO victory for the Brockton Blockbuster. The bouts were well received at a time when boxing was in need of a boost and the foundation was created for a computer extravaganza, a "Superfight" that would ultimately come very close to merging reality and fantasy.

Rocky Marciano vs Muhammad Ali.

It was the most tantalizing mythical match up, the true definition of "Superfight." This involved the cooperation of the two participants, which was readily secured. Ali was income starved, living on speaking dates and and occasional sparring role. Rocky?s business ventures were met with decidedly mixed results. The great champions readily accepted the $10,000 payment and were faced with the challenge of developing a plausible result, a stiff challenge considering Rocky?s 13-year hiatus from the ring and his receding hairline.

Rocky worked strenuously to regain his fighting trim. He trained hard and his championship heart and iron resolve to acquit himself well was much in evidence. The Rock looked near his 1956 form when he stepped into the ring with Ali. With his toupee in place he looked like a more than passable version of his 49-0, 43 KO circa 1956 model.

The action itself was filmed in one minute rounds with several possible outcomes. The blows were largely pulled yet the Rock managed to hurt Ali to the body on several occasions. Ali?s jabs frequently loosened the hairpiece on Rocky?s head and Marciano, a proud man, made it a point to connect with authority whenever he felt Ali was attempting to humiliate him. Dr. Freddie Pacheo, Ali?s longtime confidant and the much heralded "Ring Doctor" went so far as to claim Ali was decked with a body shot.

What is known is that at a dinner near the conclusion of the filming Rocky needled Clay, asked "Can I still hit, Ali?". Muhammad pulled out his shirt to reveal an angry, reddened waist.

The Ali-Marciano computer bout, held on January 20, 1970, was a clear success, both with the boxing public and from a financial vantage point. Ali outboxed the slower Marciano over the first half dozen rounds, took a few body wallops in the process, and opened up cuts over both of Marciano?s eyes. As the bout evolved into the middle and later rounds Marciano?s body attack began to wear Ali down. Dropped for a short count in round eight, Marciano battered Ali to the canvas late in the tenth round and assumed control thereafter. A Rocky left hook sent Ali to the canvas late in round 13 for the count, and to the relief of millons of fight fans nationwide, Ali had finally met his match. At least electronically!

What was lost in the great Ali-Marciano computer fight, and the Heavyweight Championship Tournament that preceded it, was the achievement itself. The Marciano-Ali outcomes were plausible, and believable. The original idea, the notion of staging a computerized Heavyweight Championship Tournament in the late 1960?s and credibly promoting it was an enormous accomplishment for Woroner. To follow it up with an Ali-Marciano extravaganza that received sufficient attention to develop a national sense of anticipation was brilliance.

In comparison to film making today, where fantasy and reality are often difficult to distinguish the film "Fantastic Voyage", released in 1966, was a miraculous journey far ahead of its time. The Murray Woroner computer fights, both the 1968 championship tournament and the Ali-Marciano spectacular, were both a fantastic voyage as well as a historic innovation for its time.

Murray Woroner broke historic ground. He was more than a pioneer, he was an innovator. Boxing should be forever in his debt.