Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Ali vs Frazier
When I was a kid the heavyweight title fights and the boxers themselves were very special. In London they didn't come more famous or bigger than Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. When they met in the ring we were all glued to our TVs. The first time they squared up was in March 1971 at Madison Square Gardens. I remember it being a brutal battle and rated by many as the fight of the century and considered the best boxing match of all time at any weight. Frazier knocked Ali down in the 15th and final round and won on points. Both received rave reviews and both went immediately to hospital. It was an epic fight and I have never forgotten it. The second time they met was back at the Garden in '74 and was a much more subdued affair. We were all a bit disappointed. Little did we know what was to come. In October 1975 a third meeting took place in Quezon City in the Philippines. Ali predicted he would have an easy time with Frazier. In the pre-fight promotions for what was dubbed the "Thriller in Manilla" Ali called Joe an "Uncle Tom" and a "Gorilla" and repeatedly ridiculed him. Typical Ali stuff really. The fight was anything but easy and Ali later likened it to being "The closest thing to dying". By the 14th round, both having hit and been hit too many times to count, Frazier's eyes were nearly swollen shut and he couldn't see Ali's punches. Finally after the 14th Frazier's veteran trainer, Eddie Futch, over loud protests from Frazier, threw in the towel to end the fight. "Sit down son" he told Frazier "Its all over. Nobody will ever forget what you did here today". And we never have. Another battle of epic proportions. Frazier and Ali had fought a total of 41 rounds and served up a boxing trilogy for the ages. The tension between the pair remained for decades. Frazier could not forget the taunts and the insults - Ali always said they were nothing more than fight promotion hype - and when Frazier was interviewed shortly after Ali, shaking and feeble with Parkinson's disease, lighted the torch to begin the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, he said he wished Ali had "Fallen into the fire". However in an interview later on in the year and in some subsequent interviews, an aging Joe said he no longer held a grudge. "It was like we were fighting the Vietnam war" he said.
Joe Frazier passed away yesterday.
Heavyweight boxing these days has become a complete sham and a bit of a joke. That's what happens in sport when too much money and greed becomes more important than the sport itself.
Thanks to Mike for the inspiration for this post and getting my rusted memory gears working.