Throwback Thursday: Ali vs. Frazier I

Last weekend was a huge matchup in boxing’s heavyweight division between two undefeated fighters. Deontay Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs) squared off against Luis Ortiz (28-0-2, 24 KOs). Wilder won by knockout in the 10th round, setting up a matchup with another undefeated heavyweight coming from the winner of the Anthony Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs) vs. Joseph Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) bout March 31st.

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Joe Frazier lands a left to the jaw of Muhammad Ali. Photo by Newsday.

While that information has nothing directly to do with our #ThrowbackThursday moment, it is still relevant. This week’s post looks back at the first time in history that two undefeated heavyweights fought for the title.

On March 8, 1971, Muhammad Ali (31-0, 25 KOs) fought “Smokin'” Joe Frazier (26-0, 23 KOs) in what was billed as “The Fight of the Century” at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Frazier won the fight by unanimous decision.

The 15-round slugfest set television records at the time with an estimated 300 million viewers in more than 50 countries and broadcasted in 12 languages worldwide.

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Ali (red) trades punches with Frazier (green). Photo by MSG Networks.

The fight held significant cultural impacts also, as this was on of Ali’s first couple fights back from his government imposed exile from the sport. While Ali was a radical, Frazier was much more conservative making this event something that appealed to more than just boxing fans. It should also be noted that this bout occurred during some of the glory years of boxing and during a time when being the heavyweight champion of the world placed one on a high-praise pedestal of celebrity.

As far as the fight goes, Ali dominated the first third of the fight. He was able to land his share of significant strikes early, but not without over expending his energy. By the sixth round, Ali was visibly gassed and Frazier began to takeover.

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Frazier (green) presses Ali (red) up against the ropes. Photo by Sports Illustrated.

How Ali survived from being knocked out, I will never know. Even after being knocked down, he managed to get back up. Frazier landed bomb after bomb over the course of the next ten rounds, but Ali was able to rope-a-dope and dance enough to ride the contest out to the scorecards. As previously mentioned, the fight was scored a unanimous decision in favor of Frazier.

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Frazier is escorted to a neutral corner after knocking Ali down. Photo by Newsday.

 

The two went on to face each other two more times before the end of their respective careers. Ali won both of those fights; the first by unanimous decision and the second by knockout.

-Jordan Kurtz AKA Kurtzy F is a founding member of Comments From The Peanut Gallery.

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