Fight of the Century
On March 8th 1971 Muhammad Ali would meet Joe Frazier for the heavyweight championship of the world. This was back when everyone recognized who the champion was. Only most people felt that Joe Frazier wasn't the real champion. Muhammad Ali had not only been champion, but he'd been a charismatic champion that really captivated boxing fans. He was quick with his feet and hands, but it may have been his mouth that made him the most entertaining fighter of all time. It was also his mouth that made Joe Frazier want to kill him.
Muhammad Ali had won two fights in a row in his comeback. He looked good against Jerry Quarry, but he hadn't looked as good in the second fight against Oscar Bonavina. Joe wanted to fight Ali, but he wanted Muhammad Ali to prove he could still fight after the layoff. Frazier was pissed at Ali for calling him names like "Uncle Tom". The fight was growing and by the time it took place it was huge. The two men would fight two more times, but this was the fight of the century. The first fight was to see who was the real champion.
The FightAli entered the fight with a 31-0 record, and Frazier entered the fight with a 26-0 record. Both men had already proved they were champions. Joe didn't feel he was respected as the champ. Ali had left three years prior as champ and felt like he still was. They both felt as if there was something to prove. Joe was angry and was looking to kill Ali. Muhammad had pride and America had turned on the great champion, and he wanted to prove to them all that he was the greatest.
The three year layoff started the second half of Muhammad Ali. In the first and second rounds Ali was moving well and really boxing Frazier. It was better than he'd looked in the two bouts prior, but that wasn't Cassius Clay anymore.
Joe Frazier was finally getting the chance to pay Ali back for all the hurtful things he'd said. Although Frazier lost the first two round he kept moving in for the kill. At on point he'd been rocked by Ali, but he didn't go down and he didn't retreat.
In the third round both fighters got off some big shots. It was Joe Frazier who landed the hardest punches. Ali hit him with some clean shots, as Joe continued to move forward. He took more shots than Ali, but when he went to the body his were more effective. Frazier landed the best punch of the fight up to that point, and he won round three.
Ali punched Joe with everything he had. If you were scoring punches Ali had easily out scored him in the fourth round. However, Frazier hit him with some shots in the later part of the round that would have dropped most any other fighter. I think he had Ali stunned real good during the last minute of the round. I gave the round to Joe for the more damaging punches.
The round started with Ali working Frazier with some clean damaging shots, and Frazier walked into quite a few of them. Early in the round Ali had bounce in his movement, but Joe hit him with some hooks that took the bounce out of him. In the later part of the round Ali was fighting flat footed and arm punching just to keep Frazier off of him. I thought Ali outpointed him and took the round.
Both fighters looked tired in the sixth round. Frazier still moving forward and Ali still hitting him on the way in and the way out. The round was tough to call Frazier was the aggressor, but Ali landed more punches. They were not all hard punches and were meant to keep Joe on the outside. Frazier got in on him but never landed anything of real significance. Ali won round six.
In the seventh round Joe Frazier hit Ali with some good shots, and I felt Ali lost the round in the second minute and a half as he'd done several times. It seemed that Ali was trying to rest toward the end of those rounds, yet Frazier remained steady and strong. He managed to land a couple of solid left hooks that probably won him the round.
The crowd was chanting Ali as the eighth round started. This might be the round that Ali created the rope-a-dope. The announcers said at the end of the round that Ali looked tired, and that may have been the case, but he was letting Frazier swing away. Ali defended himself fairly well, but Joe Frazier beat him that round.
Muhammad Ali seemed to catch his second wind. Joe Frazier continued to go to the body and seemed to be hurting him. Ali had his best round since the first round of the fight. It appeared that Ali hurt Frazier in the last minute of the ninth round. Ali had landed more punches and did more damage: Ali wins round nine.
The tenth round was an Ali round. Frazier threw some more powerful hooks to the body, but Ali was the more effective fighter. He kept Joe on the outside and outpointed him throughout the round. It wasn't the most active round of the fight. Ali just won the round by punching more and maintaining a solid attack.
The eleventh round looked a lot like the one before it, but in the last minute of the round Joe caught Ali and rocked him good. As you watch the fight it's clear Ali is hurt. He starts playing at the same time to make it seem that's what he'd been doing. Frazier didn't know if he was really hurt. It was clear to anyone watching that he was badly hurt. Joe Frazier won round 11.
Joe Frazier came out aggressively in round twelve. He landed the harder and more effective punches. Ali landed some punches too, but none were power punches and they did no damage to Frazier. The round was all Joe Frazier.
Round thirteen started with Ali outpointing Joe. Around the middle of the round Joe had landed some hard body shots, and then it turned into a brawl. Both men were just throwing punches. Ali outpointed Joe. The thirteenth round went to Muhammad Ali.
It was clear in the fourteenth round that both fighters were very tired. Frazier was forcing his way in. The bobbing and weaving was gone. As he shoved his way in Ali punished him. Frazier landed some real g6ood shots, but Ali took the round.
Round 15 - The Final Round.
Frazier came out after Ali. It seemed he knew that Ali was exhausted, because he pressured Ali and when Ali punched to keep him off it happened. Joe Frazier knocked Muhammad Ali to the canvas. It was the kind of punch that could kill a man. Ali immediately jumped up but still had to take the eight count.
Frazier wanted the knock out. He'd put his opponent on the floor and wanted to do it again. His attack was relentless, and he once again hit Ali with another powerful hook to the face. Ali took a beating but did not hit the floor again. There was no doubt in my mind that Joe Frazier won the fight, but Ali proved that he could take just as much as he could give. I think he took the fight too soon after coming back, but he had fought two fights prior. If he'd been able to maintain the footwork he might have won. Muhammad Ali wasn't Cassius Clay anymore.
Muhammad Ali was not done. The footwork he once had was never again what it had been, but he still had faster hands and more ring intelligence than anyone he faced. Ali always came into fights in the best physical condition possible. Ali could easily fight for fifteen rounds. He would fight Joe Frazier two more times in his career and he won both fights. He would even shock the world again by beating George Foreman.
Joe Frazier beat Ali to retain his title. He would defend it two more times before losing it. He'd run into Big George Foreman. Foreman had later said that he was afraid of Joe going into the fight. That's not as uncommon as it sounds. Most fighters enter the ring with some level of fear, but Joe Frazier would have scared anyone. He only lost to two fighters during his professional boxing career. Joe lost two fights to Foreman and two fights to Muhammad Ali.
The Fight of the Century
The AftermathJoe Frazier never forgot what Muhammad Ali said about him. Ali called him an Uncle Tom and I think that is what hurt him the most. White men did invest in Frazier's career, but he didn't have white people in his corner. However, Ali's head trainer Angelo Dundee was white. It appeared to me that Ali saw a man who was more black than him when he looked at Frazier. That was a fact based purely on where the two men were raised and came from. The things he said about Joe were very hurtful, and Joe wasn't a trash talker and instead of firing back he simply held a lifelong grudge.
Ali had always said he was just promoting the fight. The fact that the two men were guaranteed two and a half million dollars meant the fight didn't need to be promoted. The two of them were recognizable champions, and neither had ever been defeated. This thing would sell itself. Muhammad went at him with mental warfare because he knew how tough Joe was physically. He wanted to create an advantage for himself, and he just might have succeeded in doing so.
There were several factors that I believe went into creating two more fights. Ali realized how easy Joe was to hit. Not all fighters could catch Joe like Ali could. Frazier's defensive moves are real good. Ali just had lighting fast hands, and he could catch Frazier like no other fighter. Joe would have fought Ali a hundred times. He did not like him and would have faced him anywhere any time. It's not a joke to say that Joe wanted to kill him in the ring. In Manilla he almost did. These two men will be remembered for their trilogy in the ring, but it's the things that happened outside the ring that created three wars.