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Joe Frazier vs Muhammad Ali: Glorious Fights of the 20th Century

MG is an air warrior and a global traveler well as an amateur astrologer who loves to visit and explore new places.



In the last century, two names dominated the world of heavyweight boxing which is the king of sports; they were Joe Frazier and Mohammed Ali, also earlier known as Cassius Clay. Both the legendary boxers are no more but their names are etched in the boxing Hall of Fame. Joe Frazier was the rival to Muhammad Ali and apart from Ken Norton nobody had the measure of Ali as he had.

My introduction to boxing commenced in the Military Academy where for the first term boxing was a compulsory disciple. As a junior, I got thrashed around quite a bit till after a few weeks I picked up the nuances of the sport and gave it back to the senior cadets. I did not persistent boxing but my interest in the sport remains to date. More than anything else it was the heavyweight boxing championships that have really thrilled me like millions of others.

Joe Frazier was a great boxer who gave a tremendous battering to Ali finally succumbed to liver cancer at the age of 67. Ali passed away in 2016 at the age of 74. Frazier may have gone but 40 years back he was the one man who stood up to Ali. Unlike Ali, he was not a sophisticated man, but he made up with his brute strength.


The thrillers

Frazier made his entry into the world of professional boxing when he won the 1964 Olympic gold medal in boxing at the Tokyo Olympics. Ali had earlier also won the gold medal in 1960. Both the boxers had turned professional and Ali had made a name for himself when at the age of 22 he had knocked out Sony Liston to become the world champion. He was however stripped of his championship and sentenced to five years in prison for evading the draft. He had objected to going to Vietnam as a conscientious objector as he had converted to Islam. Ali appealed against the verdict which was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971 but by then he had lost 4 crucial years.

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The battle between the two commenced in 1970 when Joe Frazier won the world heavyweight crown when he knocked out Jimmy Ellis. This set him up for a match with Muhammad Ali. Titled the FIGHT OF THE CENTURY he knocked down Muhammad Ali in the 15th round to become the undisputed world heavyweight champion of boxing. The fight took place on March 8, 1971, at Madison square garden, New York. People who underestimate Frazier are crazy. A look at the pace of his fighting, one can see that never anyone saw a heavyweight bob and weave like him for 15 rounds, constantly moving forward non-stop throwing power punches. Ali met his match here for the first time. Frazier won by a knockout.

Ali met Joe again in a massive bruising battle in 1974 and Ali won the non-title match.

The stage was now set for a championship bout in Manila. called as THRILLA IN MANILA. It was again a bruising match, but Ali was ahead on points when Joe with a bleeding eye cut did not get up from his corner in the 15th round. Ali was declared champion. Joe had a big chance in the sixth round when a massive blow-took Ali by surprise and he landed against ropes. Ali won this bout on points.


Last word

There is no doubt that Ali and Joe were two of the greatest boxing champions of the 20th century. Ali is considered the greatest boxing champion of all time but Frazier was not far behind. Both boxers were rivals throughout their career. Muhammad Ali always treated Joe Frazier with contempt. But he later acknowledged that Frazier was his toughest opponent. There was a good chance that after the battering Ali had received in case Frazier had entered the 15th round Ali may have given up. Frazier tried for a comeback in 76 but was knocked out by Foreman.

Now when both boxers are no more many boxing specialists have concluded that Joe Frazier also was a great boxer and his name in the Boxing hall of fame along with Ali is a must. Perhaps he was just a shade behind Ali. Lastly, would Ali be ‘great’ without Frazier? We must remember that a boxer is the 'greatest' when he beats another great boxer.

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