By: Scott RossPublished: October 1, 2022

Muhammad Ali

On March 8, 1971, Joe Frazier (26-0) squared off in Madison Square Garden against Muhammed Ali (31-0) in "The Fight of the Century." Frazier was the WBA, WBC, and Ring Magazine heavyweight champion of the world, all titles that had been held by Ali until he was stripped of the belts in 1967 for his refusal to be inducted into the Army and fight in the Vietnam War. The fight went the distance, with Frazier winning a unanimous decision.

On January 28, 1974, the two men met again in Madison Square Garden, this time with only Ali's NABF heavyweight title on the line, with Ali winning by unanimous decision.

Finally, on October 1, 1975, the two heavyweights met for a rubber match, this time in "The Thrilla in Manilla." By this time Ali was 48-2 and held the WBA, WBC, and The Ring heavyweight champion, while Frazier was 32-2, but beltless.

In an effort to accommodate the global viewing public, the opening bell rang at 10am local time, when it was hot as balls, with the mercury topping 110 degrees Fahrenheit. What followed some of the sweatiest, most brutal rounds the sport has ever known.

Following the ninth round, during which the champ took a barrage of body blows while spending much of the round backed up against the ropes and trying to clinch Frazier, Ali told his corner, "Man, this is the closest I've ever been to dying."

About one minute into the thirteenth round, Ali unleashed a thunderous right cross that sent Frazier's mouthguard flying across the ring, then followed it up with an almost identical blow, eliciting a roar from the crowd. A clearly dazed Frazier gamely kept coming at Ali, but Ali kept tagging him in the face again and again. With about 70 seconds to go, the crowd began to chant "Ali! Ali! Ali!" When the bell finally rang, both of Frazier's eyes were badly swollen.

Both men were clearly exhausted heading into the fourteenth, but Ali found enough juice to light Frazier up one last time, with a 30-second barrage that began with about a minute left in the round. Frazier didn't have an ounce of quit in him, but his corner did. As the challenger sat bleeding from his mouth, his trainer Eddie Futch waved to referee Carlos Padilla, Jr., indicating that his man wouldn't be coming out for the fifteenth round. Ali was the winner.

Years later, Ali would confess to his his biographer, Thomas Hauser, "Frazier quit just before I did. I didn't think I could fight anymore."


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