Muhammad Ali is the most well known combat sports athlete of all time. From his witty sayings to his civil rights activism, it is hard to deny that Ali was not only a great boxer, but one of the most important characters in American history.
Ali’s greatest fight, and arguably the greatest boxing match of all time, is his rubber match against Joe Frazier. The two had fought twice before, with Frazier winning the first fight and Ali coming back for the second. The two decided to face off to settle the question everyone wanted to know: who was the better of the two men.
“It will be a killa and a thrilla and a chilla when I get the Gorilla in Manila.”
Ali had a way of getting into his opponents’ heads leading up to a fight. But with Joe Frazier, it was personal. Ali and Frazier really hated one another. Ahead of the first fight, Frazier was quoted saying, “I prayed, ‘Lord, help me kill this guy, ‘cause he’s not righteous.'”
“I like to get a man mad, because when a man’s mad, he wants ya so bad, he can’t think, so I like to get a man mad,” said Ali ahead of the fight. But, in all fairness, Ali wasn’t level headed when it came to Smokin’ Joe Frazier, either. Just prior to their second fight, the two got into a fist fight on live TV.
The feud even went so deep that Joe Frazier’s kids were taunted at school, called “gorilla” and “ugly” by their classmates. They would come home crying. This really hit home for Frazier.
Early in the fight, Frazier expected Ali to utilize the uppercut to counter Frazier’s head movement. Ali used it in the first two fights and it gave Frazier fits, but when Frazier timed them right, he landed his big shots. Instead, Ali held his lead left hand out, blocking Frazier’s view. At the end of the first round, Ali looked to have Frazier hurt against the ropes, but, of course, Frazier recovered and survived. Into the third round, Ali kept his guard high and tight against the ropes. Frazier worked the body and tried to get Ali to lower his guard. Ali was steadfast. Frazier let off and Ali beckoned him to bring it on. The crowd went wild as Joe Frazier tried, unsuccessfully, to break Ali. Then with just under a minute to go in the third, Muhammad Ali pours on the offense, putting Frazier in fight or flight mode. Ding goes the bell and the whole crowd is on the edge of their seat.
You can hear the distaste these two have for each other, Joe Frazier grunts with every punch he throws at Ali, seemingly trying to forcefully remove Ali’s liver from the inside of his body. Early on going into the fourth and fifth rounds, Ali was incredibly creative with when his shots would come. With no real cadence, he pot shot at Joe Frazier being more unpredictable. Frazier, on the other hand, took power shots and really worked the body, wearing down the cardio of Ali. In the beginning of the sixth round, Frazier lands that huge left hand he was looking for and the tide started to turn. Ali lost his mouthpiece and continued to fight like the warrior he was. At the end of round six, the crowd was roaring as Smokin’ Joe Frazier was taking over the fight.
Ali didn’t let Frazier’s steam scare him. In the eighth he poured on the shots as he was against the ropes, getting Joe Frazier to cover up for the first time in the whole fight. Both men were visibly exhausted in the eighth round. Round eight was the best round in the fight thus far. Nobody knew what was coming. Frazier continued to work the body of Ali. The crushing hooks to the trunk didn’t phase Muhammad Ali, but Frazier persisted. In the later rounds, Ali played defense as Frazier pushed the pace. While Muhammad Ali was tired, he was waiting on Joe Frazier to wear himself down, giving him the advantage later in the fight.
Round 11 arrives and Muhammad Ali comes alive again after taking a couple of rounds off. He poured on shots early as Frazier wildly threw punches at Ali. Ali would then wait on the ropes to rest and wait for that next burst of energy. As the bell rang, it was no talking, no taunting from each of the fighters. The fatigue from such a war made those precious seconds in between rounds all that much more important. Ali’s rest was the most important key to victory in the later rounds. Coming into round 12, Ali pumped out five to six punches. Frazier then pushed Ali to the ropes and Ali rested. Next thing, Ali is exploding and landing another five to six punch combo.
All of a sudden, Ali takes over in round 13. Frazier walks forward, eating punch after punch from Ali. Frazier was already bleeding from the mouth earlier in the fight, and now, his eyes were swelling up. Round 14 was back and forth. But it was apparent that both fighters were running on empty. With one minute to go in the 14th, Ali finds some cache of energy and lights up Joe Frazier. He bites down on his mouthpiece, embraces the suck and does what it takes to win the round and ultimately the fight.
Yep, the fight never entered round 15. Both fighters were shot. Done. The doctor comes in and looks at Frazier and calls the fight off. Ali retained his title.
The fight is hailed by many as the greatest boxing match of all time. Ali, with all the anger and hatred he had for Joe Frazier, complimented Frazier. It came out later that Frazier came into the fight already losing his eye sight. Frazier reportedly injured his eye when he was much younger. He was working the speed bag and the bolt broke loose, sending shards of metal in his eye. This slowly developed into a cataract that affected him all these years later. The fight was brutal on Ali. He collapsed in the ring. Ali could not get up after the fight and sat on the couch for an hour, unable to give an interview. “I’m sore all over. My arms, my face, my sides all ache. I’m so, so tired. There is a great possibility that I will retire. You might have seen the last of me. I want to sit back and count my money, live in my house and my farm, work for my people and concentrate on my family,” said Ali.
The fight will forever be remembered in history as the greatest matches in boxing history. Thanks for reading our history lesson. I hope you enjoyed!