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Remembering March 8, 1971: Joe Frazier versus Muhammad Ali


50 years in the past?

 

I can’t say I keep in mind it prefer it was yesterday. It’s like a distant planet, hundreds of miles away, however vivid and brilliant.

 

Unforgettable.

 

I used to be 12 when “The Battle of the Century” went down.

 

That time period, “Battle of the Century” had been used to explain many ring battles up to now, most well-known being the July 4, 1910, bout between Jack Johnson and former champion James J. Jeffries.

 

 

Most boxing followers loathed Johnson and liked Jeffries. “The Boilermaker” was popping out of retirement to, as writer Jack London wrote, “Knock that golden smile from Jack Johnson’s face.”

 

Didn’t come near occurring. The struggle was fairly one-sided with Johnson profitable by stoppage in spherical 15. Johnson had confronted racism, and Jeffries, to attain a convincing knockout.

 

Quick ahead fifty-six years. Muhammad Ali, who mentioned he might relate to Johnson, was thought of a traitor by many for refusing induction into the U.S. Military. Joe Frazier, undefeated like Ali, was thought of the extra institution fighter. The buildup had been intense. Everybody had an opinion. The world was about to cease.

 

The night time of the struggle, happening at Madison Sq. Backyard in New York Metropolis, was electrical – like no different night time in boxing historical past. Ringside was stuffed with celebrities. Frank Sinatra was snapping photos for Life journal. Actor Burt Lancaster was enjoying himself, and doing commentary (not very nicely truly) for the bout.

 

The struggle itself did one thing that hardly ever occurs. It exceeded the hype. Fifteen rounds of pleasure and compelled attrition. Ali obtained off quick, conscious that Frazier was a sluggish starter. He tattooed the champion’s face with jabs, inflicting swelling. Frazier took all of it and stored “smokin”- even smiling at Ali.

 

By the center rounds, Frazier’s left hook was discovering Ali. The photographs had been brutal, knocking Ali’s head again. He additionally labored over Ali’s stomach, bringing his guard down.

 

Ali rallied again, clobbering Frazier with a brief left, the identical blow that had deposited Oscar Bonavena on all fours a number of months earlier than. Frazier, although, was no Bonavena.

 

He absorbed the shot and stored coming. Frazier damage Ali badly in spherical 11, his left hook sending the previous champion wobbling across the ring. Ali fought again in spherical 13, and, at instances, in spherical 14, however Frazier completed the struggle robust, sending Ali sprawling to the canvas with, what else, a left hook.

 

“The Battle of the Century” was dramatic, aggressive, and brutal.

 

Frazier, who was by no means the identical fighter after the bout, needed to dig deep to the middle of his being to discover a technique to win.

 

Ali, with a misshapen jaw from Frazier’s left hook, confirmed guts that many thought he lacked.

 

That night time within the Large Apple, two undefeated heavyweights clashed.

 

Although one got here out of it the official winner, they each gained, as did boxing.

 

The legends would struggle two extra fights, however what went down March 8, 1971 really was “The Battle of the Century.”