On March 8th, 1971 the boxing match that had come to be known as ‘The Fight’ took place. The battle that ensued was touted as one of politics, as one of history, as one to settle debates forever. Above all of that, it was simply an incredible fight.
To market a boxing match as ‘The Fight’ may sound like the PR team were having a day off but you have to understand that every big boxing match is called the ‘Fight of the Century’, ‘The Greatest Fight in History’ ‘The Best of the Best’, when this fight was on the cards everyone knew there was no need to sell it. This was Joe Frazier against Muhammad Ali. This was two of the greatest boxers of all time, both undefeated, vying for the title, competing to finally say there was no one better than them.
The bout was also covered in controversy. Ali had been banned from boxing for three years due to his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War. Frazier had since been taken as the poster boy for those who were pro-war. In some ways, this fight was the battle of the decision to go to Vietnam at all, on canvas. Aside from politics, it was two great fighters close to their prime. Ali was undoubtedly at his best before the War took place but he was no pushover after.
Frazier though was a beast and Ali would have to use all of his skill and flair to have any chance of outboxing Frazier on the night. The fight took place in Madison Square Gardens with every celebrity in attendance and the world watching too.
The first rounds were about Ali displaying his agility and moves. He bobbed and weaved in the ring Frazier trying to hold him in one spot. If the fight had stayed like this is would not be so well remembered. Yet in the third round, Frazier’s punches started to land and while Ali acted like they didn’t phase him, the fists of Frazier faze everyone if they land.
The next two rounds say Frazier grow into the match further. He continued to win in trade-offs against Ali and if this had continued it would not be much of a monumental fight to talk about either. However, in the sixth round, Ali fought back. The spring in his step had returned and his fists were now flying too. Ali landed a number of uppercuts in this round that told Frazier he was not the only one who could throw rocks.
Ali held supremacy in the seventh round but found himself on the ropes again in the eight. It was all a flowing back and forth affair until the 11th round. Here Frazier caught Ali with a left hook that left visible stars circling Ali’s head. The man was clearly hurt but it well by dancing around the ring again. The most intelligent boxer there ever was selling a lie to Frazier that he was happy to carry on. The 12th and 13th rounds also went to Frazier but without him unleashing a killer blow that would end the fight for Ali.
The 14th round showed Ali still had plenty of fight left in him, Ali’s speed now made him uncatchable for Frazier and allowed him to dizzy his opponent with flurries of punches. The 15th round looked to be his but Frazier had other plans. The fighter’s powerful left hook again finding Ali and again doing damage. This time Ali went to the floor. A punch that would end the night for most fighters could only knock Ali to the ground, he was up straight away but it was too late for a comeback. Frazier had done enough to win the match and when the bell rang all judges agreed.
Ali had been defeated and the man who had always been known as Champ could be called Champ no longer. He would return to the ring for more days of glory but this night ended in disappointment for Ali. However, for the boxing fan, it was one of the greatest nights of all time.