Tuesday, March 08, 2011

It Was 40 Years Ago Today

It was billed as the Fight of the Century, and 40 years later we've still never seen an event quite like it. I was just a New York City kid in grade school but no matter how old you were you were caught up in the excitement leading up to the fight. Back in those days if you didn't attend the fight live, the only way you could see it was on what was know as closed-circuit, usually shown at movie theaters. As a kid, of course, I had to find out who won the next morning.

A look at that night here.
Two undefeated champions, complete opposites, were earning an unprecedented $2.5 million each to produce one true champion. Who would prevail? Ali, the beautiful dancer and poetic defier of convention and authority, the conscientious objector to the Vietnam War who exalted the Koran above all else? Or Frazier, the grinding, unstoppable workingman who exemplified the grunting ethos and endurance of President Richard Nixon's Silent Majority?
Frazier would go on to knock Ali down in the 15th and final round, winning a majority decision. They would fight twice more, the first a 1974 non-title fight a year after Frazier was destroyed by George Foreman, then the Thrilla in Manila in October 1975, a brutal bout that took a lot out of both fighters.

More thoughts here.
Perhaps YOU were watching on closed-circuit television in a movie theater or arena, or maybe even lucky enough to be in the World's Most Famous Arena on that magical evening on March 8, 1971.

It's remembered as "The Fight of the Century," Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier in perhaps the most famous boxing event in the modern history of the sport. Frazier, now 67, remembers it like it was yesterday.

"I remember all of the moments," he told The Post. "No. 1, it was one of the greatest things that ever happened in sports. It was one of those times that something great happened in our life. You're always going to remember that."

Frazier returned to the Garden last night to watch the Knicks play the Jazz and earn a salute from the crowd for a fight between two undefeated champions whose performances exceeded the hype of one of the most hyped fights ever.

"Many big events turn out to be anti-climactic," said Larry Merchant, HBO's veteran boxing commentator. "They turn out to be just another game or another fight. This fight exceeded impossibly high expectations with its drama. That's what makes it so indelible, singular and memorable."

1 comment:

southernsue said...

high price to pay, ali has severe health problems with all the hits he got to the head while fighting. wonder if he thinks his line of work was worth it? however, fortune and fame will trump common sense.