This summer we look forward to some big fights, its exciting for every boxing fan to witness masters of our time enter the ring and do what they do best. Legends like Bernard Hopkins will take on Chad Dawson, former Pound for Pound king Manny Pacqiuao will look to over come rising star Timothy Bradley and Unbeaten Floyd Mayweather will be trying to defend his crown against Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto.
Just 3 fights that im sure will capture the Boxing nation, but I want to take this chance to recall what is regarded as the greatest fight ever, a match that had even excelled the initial expectations, what other than the ‘Fight of the Century’ between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.
When ever people ask why I have the passion for this sport or how I can watch a sport that is considered barbaric, I would simply say because it is a true art form that needs to be watched to be admired. And if there was one fight that would summarise why this sport is still so popular, so renowned and has captured the hearts of so many fight fans, it would be this classic encounter.
The date had been set, March 8th 1971, the venue was what many consider the home of Boxing, Madison Square Garden and the 2 men entering the ring were unbeaten.
Muhammad Ali entered the fight 31-0 and after beating the likes of Sonny Liston, Floyd Paterson, Ali had established himself as a true Champion and was on a path back from having his Licence stripped due to refusal to join the Vietnam war. Frazier had become World Champion after beating Jimmy Ellis and was now ready for the biggest test of his career as he defended both WBC and WBA titles.
The Garden was a sell out, it was the hottest ticket in town and had celebrities falling over themselves trying to get a seat. Famously it was Frank Sinatra that couldn’t get a ringside ticket so dressed as a camera man and took photos for Life Magazine.
America was divided, people either supported Muhammad Ali and the Anti-Establishment movement Ali had created, or you would be Pro- War and be in the corner of Frazier, what ever side people were on they were to witness one of the greatest matches they would ever remember.
From the opening bell Ali would skip his way around the ring, with lightning fast feet and punches to match, he firmly took his place and dominated the opening round’s. But it was in round 4 where Frazier took his place as a true Champion and hit Ali with some Jabs, Straights and Deadly Hooks that would turn the tide in his favour. As the fight entered the middle few rounds Ali was till in the fight but started to tire, it was anybody’s call at this point and both fighters worthy of winning this fight. The Major turning point in this fight was in round 11 as Ali tasted the left glove of Frazier, it was a signature shot from Frazier and one that Ali would have been aware of going into the bout, but the only thing keeping him from hitting the canvas was the ropes, and even though Ali got through the round it was clear he was hurt.
As both fighters entered round 15 people could sense that the fight was leaning in Frazier’s favour, it would take 1 last stand out shot from either man to get the judges on their side and it would be ‘Smokin Joe’ that landed that shot.
For only the 3rd time in Ali’s career he found himself on his back as Frazier landed another left hook that looked as if it should have removed Ali’s head. The young challenger from Kentucky got back to his feet and continued to fight his way through terrific shots from the Champion.
As the final bell rang the judges would announce that Frazier had retained his title and Ali would come away with a Swollen and Battered Jaw. It had people talking as soon as they had left the arena, had Frazier only won because Ali had just come back from his suspension and was not at full fitness, had Frazier died in hospital the evening of the fight. Either way, one thing everyone who has ever witnessed this fight can agree on, is that it stands above all other bouts as the greatest fight in the history of the sport. I have watched this match on many occasions and it gets better every time, and I sometimes wonder if the people watching that fight, weather they were at home in the streets or in the Garden itself knew that they were going to witness the ‘Fight of the Century’
RIP ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier 1944-2011, One of my all time Favourite Boxers