Boxing, Don King, Hon Elijah Muhammad, Joe Frazier, Madison Square Garden, Muhammad Ali, Nation of Islam, Sports, Sports & Social commentary, Vietnam War

The Fight That Was The Beginning And The End Of Heavyweight Boxing


The Fight That Was The Beginning And The End Of Heavyweight Boxing

It’s hard to believe that it has been forty years since the first of their trilogy of legendary fights that took place between then reigning world heavyweight champion Joe Frazier and challenger Muhammad Ali . On the 8th March 1971 it was then the biggest fight in boxing history and the newly released Muhammad Ali would challenge Frazier for his title at Madison Square Garden , New York City , New York . Premium seat tickets at the time were sold at the unheard of price of $150-00 apiece . Today $150 at a marquee PPV  (pay per view ) title fight wouldn’t even place you within 100 feet of the boxing ring. ==============================================================================

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Ali had just been released from prison as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War and be that as it may he took his stance on a principal which was a great deal more than those who simply chose to evade not serving their country by fleeing the US to places such as Canada , Mexico and even Europe having had their callup from the US military as part of the military draft. That fight itself would largely introduce the world to Don King as a boxing promoter as it was he who promoted that fight and many of the others that had covered Ali’s career over the years. Apart from being a promoter at the time King also was a manager and the ultimate showman . His panache for the extraordinary as well as the ridiculous became a selling point that simply had the fans wanting more . And with Ali as his primary box office draw both would paydirt ;over the ensuing years as the promoter tied his sail to Ali’s mast , even though Ali was managed and trained at the time by Angelo Dundee .

Ali’s three and a half layoff away from the sport enforced upon him after his sentence was seen in some circles as unjust , whereas others viewed it as appropriate even though at the height of this , much of the hypocrisy was still going on as it regard the rights of African Americans within the country . Many would like to have seen him still incarcerated at the time but with him having served more than half his sentence and with it being challenged within the justice system , his release after a successful appeal saw him return to his chosen career. Going into the the fight as the underdog many believed that the former champion who’d been stripped of his title stood a remote chance of winning against one of the most feared boxers of the era . Frazier was nobody’s fool in the ring and his plan was simple ………. knock you out or be knocked out.

The fight itself was well marketed by Don King and his associates and the fact that it was televised made the event all the more special at the time. Now in this day and a fight of this magnitude can only be seen the vast majority of the public and fight via PPV , and at an exorbitant cost I might add ! In light of that fact and with the whole world wanting to see and what to make of Ali’s return to the ring the stage was set for a fight that many believe would not have come about. We all knew of Ali’s repartee` and the fact that he was the first real trash talker within the world of sports and boxing . He’d usually make light of an opponent, more so to get under their skin more than anything else . And often that trash talking worked , as it made an opponent feel ill at ease even before entering into the ring. It was something that’d later be followed up by a young champion within the division that many would either come to love or hate and that would be Mike Tyson . A fighter’s career who we’d all at one time or another would come to follow with a great deal of expectation even if in the end we’d come to despise what he would indeed come to stand for because of his demeanor in and outside of the ring. Tyson despite his character flaws may well go down as one of the greatest heavyweights ever in the history of boxing . As to where he’d stand amongst the all time greats within the category and in the annals of boxing itself, who’s to really say ? We can only really judge the fighter from his record in the ring and the accomplishments achieved there.

The Ali Frazier fight was referee’d by veteran fight referee Arthur Mercante Sr whose acumen within the ring as an official was respected the world over. And the fight itself wasn’t without controversy from the start in spite of the protests from those who felt aggrieved that a draft dodger was being given legitimacy to resurrect his professional career while American military fighting men were laying down their lives in the sacrifice of their country. If there was anything to be learned from this era it was that the country wasn’t merely just divided along social line but still very much to an extent along racial lines as well. And it certainly hadn’t helped that Ali having converted to Islam was also seen as something of a demagogue and a radical. The Nation of Islam had made its presence felt , albeit that one of its most prominent voices Malcolm X had long since departed at the hands of an assassin’s bullets. The fact of the matter was that the outspoken Ali a staunch supporter of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad , leader of of the Nation of Islam took his vows seriously as a convert to Islam and would as such show his devout faith to the religion . That alone simply flew in the face of ‘White America’ and all that it stood for at the time . In retrospect things haven’t changed all that much when one thinks about the whole xenophobic intolerance now being shown towards Muslims of any creed be they Arabs or otherwise. They’re in large part viewed as jihadists  whose sole wish is to see the death and destruction of America ……………… but in all sincerity it’s no different to the intolerance also being espoused by alleged Christians who sit in judgment upon US military servicemen who’ve died in vain serving this country in two wars now being waged in Afghanistan and Iraq .

The fight itself took on an intensity all of its own with Ali having lost some of his quickness he made up for with a certain amount of guile within the ring . Frazier for his part took the fight to Ali right from the start looking to wear down the challenger with whatever shots he could take aim with at his opponent. Hooks to the head and body were thrown with devastating effectiveness and he would catch Ali off guard several times in the earlier rounds of the bout. There were those who felt at the time , if Ali could withstand those first five or six rounds of this fifteen round battle then in the latter part of this fight he could very well prevail if his stamina didn’t let him down. The early rounds, both men sought to use their respective skills to outdo each other , Ali with his legendary right jabs , swift movement when needed and Frazier with his equally stunning body shots . Each would make their mark and it wasn’t long before the fans knew that this bout wasn’t simply just any other title fight but something special in the making .

In fact the trilogy of fights between the two have stood the test of time and if anything are the fights which all else are judged by down the years to this day. These fights spoke not only about the greatness of Ali but also the respect which Frazier would later be held by his former nemesis and now close friend. There may well have been a great dislike between the two at the time as to what they each respectively meant to the fans of that era but there’s no denying that both men served the sport well with their prowess and appeal. The latter rounds of this bout would prove fortuitous for the champion as we would begin to see the challenger grow weary due to the lack of stamina and the fact that Frazier’s punches were beginning to take its toll on Ali . Certainly through rounds eleven through fourteen that was most certainly the case as the challenger was repeatedly caught with several devastating blows that many other fighters would not have withstood. But this was what separated Ali the fighter from any other heavyweight of his era or since , he could withstand an amazing amount of punishment and still make light of it and come back and actually eke out a win. However on this night it wasn’t to be as Joe Frazier would have the final say with the punch that would effectively seal the fight for him when in the final thirty seconds of round fifteen he would knock Ali down to the canvas for the first time of his professional career with a devastating right hook. The stunned crowd at Madison Square Garden and those watching around the globe must surely have been shocked by what they’d just witnessed but in essence it shouldn’t have really come as a surprise to anyone who was on hand for this bout.

Inasmuch one may well expected Ali to pull off the upset it was far too much to ask of the fighter who’d been away from the ring for over 3 1/2 years for anyone to have expected to overcome ring rust and effectively regain his sharpness on the way to regaining the world heavyweight title. The two more fights within this trilogy over the ensuing year of both fighters’ careers would come to define the best that heavyweight boxing had to offer at the time. Ever since then the sport of boxing has long yearned for an undisputed heavyweight champion who was as dominant as Ali over the course of his career. We have had champions , undisputed within the division but none as dominant or more of a showman than Muhammad Ali was in his prime. You may agree or disagree with that statement but his record does speak for itself. What other fighter of that generation or since can one actually say that about within the heavyweight division of boxing much less any other division for that matter ?

In truth the sport of boxing now seems to be on its last legs and even though we now have Manny Pacquiao  reigning over the sport as its best pound for pound fighter, it has to be said that Pacquaio is now in the waning moments of an esteemed career with very little else left to prove . He now takes fights merely for the sake of taking them against opponents who aren’t really that much of a challenge for him . Within the heavyweight division itself the champions there are merely fighting to be recognition and have little talent if a modicum at best of what can be described as the worse era of heavyweight boxing in the annals of the sport’s history. To put it bluntly I’d rather not even bother to actually mention the names of the actual title holders , simply out of respect to you all because I personally don’t believe that you actually want to be bored with that fact at all ! Suffice to say , you can simply Google words present world heavyweight champion and find those very names out for yourselves.

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What thoughts if any do you have on the careers of both Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier as professional fighters and where would you rank them amongst the all time greats within the heavyweight division of boxing during the modern era and pre modern era ? Simply chime in with a comment as to your thoughts on this topic and anything related to the sport of boxing and I’ll do my utmost to respond to your comments in a timely and orderly manner ! Thanks as always for the continued support as it’s greatly appreciated !

Picture and slide show details below.

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(1) Frazier (right) connects with a right to the jaw of Ali in their world heavyweight title fight at Madison Square Garden in March of 1971. The two would later go on to fight two more times in their storied careers that’s now intertwined forever because of the trilogy. David Hume Kennerley  @ copyrighted material all rights reserved

(2) Ali takes a left hook from Frazier that would send him to the canvas in the fifteenth and final round of their WBA WBC world heavyweight title fight. Referee Arthur Mercante would convene the mandatory count which the challenger would beat to resume the fight in the dying seconds of that final round. Corbis Images @ copyrighted material …… all rights reserved .

(3) Ali seen here falling to the canvas after the left hook thrown by champion in the 15th round of their now classic world title fight . David Hume Kennerley @ copyrighted material ……..

(4 This color perspective from the cover of Sports Illustrated captures the emotion of the event at Madison Square Garden as Frazier lands the left hook that immediately sends Ali the challenger to the canvas of their world heavyweight title fight. Tony Triolo / SI ……….

(5) The two former pugilists Joe Frazier (left) and Ali seen here are now firm friends . Ali now suffering from Parkinsons Disease now converses through an intermediary or tries to respond by drawing somewhat childlike pictures in order to communicate . Steve Kranitz/ Wire Images Inc. …….

(6) Don King seated (left) is seen here with Joe Frazier and the convened press to publicize his fight with Muhammad Ali which was held at the Araneta Coliseum , Metro City, Manila , Philippines . The fight would come to be simply known as “The Thriller In Manila” for which the champion would lose his title to Ali , having to retire in the fourteenth round of their fifteen round title fight. AP/Reuters/ Ronaldo Massaquoi ……………..

(7) Referee Arthur Mercante Sr guides Joe Frazier to a neutral corner before beginning his mandatory count over Ali seen here lying on the canvas in his world heavyweight title attempt to win back the title from then champion , Joe Frazier . AP Photo/ Nicholas Neville ………….

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Alan aka tophatal  http://tophatal.wordpress.com/ Joe Frazier’s career record 32 (27 KO’s) -4-1  Muhammad Ali’s career record 56 (37 KO’s) -5-0  Ali vs Frazier Verdict unanimous 15 round majority decision Frazier. Titles at stake WBA & WBC heavyweight titles for the then undisputed champion Judges : Bill Recht  , Artie Aidala and Arthur Mercante …….. Referee: Arthur Mercante

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