It was not the greatest fight but it was the greatest event.
March 8th is the 50th anniversary of the most significant sports event of the 20th century. Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier for the World’s Heavyweight Boxing Championship at Madison Square Garden in New York. There was not one sports event that came close to the pageantry of this event during the 20th century. Joe Frazier was the champion and seen by many as the good guy. Frazier might have gone to Vietnam and fought in the war had he been presented with that opportunity. Ali verbally abused him in the pre-fight build up and America along with the rest of the world was watching. Joe was the good guy. Ali was the bad guy. America was reeling from an unpopular war, political assassinations and unrest in the streets.
On April 28th, 1967, after refusing to join the army because he was against the Vietnam War, Ali faced a felony charge and jail. That was enough to get New York State Athletic Commission to suspend his boxing license and the World Boxing Association to strip him of his title. Eventually Ali would get his case to the Supreme Court and would win. The Supreme Court decision came after the March 8th 1971 Ali-Frazier fight. In 1970 a judge ruled the New York State Athletic Commission was wrong to strip Ali of his boxing license and he went back to fighting. The fight itself took a lot out of Ali and Frazier. Ali won the early rounds and began to fade in the middle. Frazier knocked down Ali in both the 11th and 15th rounds and won a unanimous decision. Ali went to the hospital after the bout to get x-rays on his jaw and Frazier spent some time in the hospital after the fight. But the good guy Frazier was the undisputed World Heavyweight Boxing Champion.
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