The Big Guys: Ali, Frazier & Foreman
Looking back, the Nineteen Seventies were not especially great years. They decade came in with student protests, riots, Richard Nixon and Watergate. There was a wide cultural divide with white suburbanites, blue collar workers, rednecks and cops against urban blacks, liberals, the college educated, hippies, pacifists and student radicals; a scene that would play out again nearly fifty years later.
Football and basketball had supplanted baseball and boxing as the biggest sports attractions. But boxing still mattered and three of the biggest fights of all time, all involving Muhammed Ali took place in the first half of the decade. As the Seventies came in, both Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier had legitimate claims to the heavyweight crown. The two met on March 8, 1971 in “The Fight of the Century” (actually the second such; the first was Johnson-Jeffries in 1910.) Frazier won a decision in a fight that lived up to its name. Frazier then lost by knockout to hard punching George Foreman and the second “Super Fight” involving Ali took place in Zaire, West Africa on October 29, 1974 when Ali “rope-a-doped” Foreman and won by a knockout in round eight to once again become Heavyweight Champion of the World.
The third and final Super Fight, the “Thrilla in Manilla” was held in Manila, Philippines on October 1, 1975 when Ali and Frazier fought again. This time, Ali won. The three fights, known as “The Fight of the Century”, “The Rumble in the Jungle,” and the “Thrilla in Manila” were bigger than anything before or since in the history of the Sweet Science.
Light heavyweight champion Bob Foster, middleweight king Carlos Monzon and welterweight ruler Jose Napoles’ careers are covered in detail along with the emergence of 1976 Olympic Gold Medalist Sugar Ray Leonard culminating in the first Leonard-Roberto Duran fight.
More excerpts from this book coming soon! Stay tuned.