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The Big Fight: Muhammad Ali - Joe Frazier (1975)

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19 December 1975 (Finland)  »

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Super Fight III  »

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The city of Cairo was initially considered as a possible host to the fight. The August 1975 issue of Ring Magazine had a fictitious fight-poster of Ali-Frazier III on its cover, and the poster listed Nasser Stadium in Cairo as the place the fight was taking place. See more »

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Referenced in Miami Vice: Glades (1984) See more »

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Killer diller thriller...
1 April 2010 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

When Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) showed up for the weigh-in for his first fight with Sonny Liston, who but Sugar Ray Robinson himself was at his side. Ali had often fancied himself a heavyweight Ray Robinson. Joe Frazier, conversely, had expressed great admiration for the straight-ahead, nonstop assaults of Henry Armstrong. If anyone in the heavyweight division could in any way, shape or form be likened to Henry Armstrong, it was Frazier. When Armstrong met Robinson, it was the rangier Robinson who won; when their heavyweight counterparts first fought, it was Frazier who won- BIG. ("The good news was that we learned that Ali could take a punch. The bad news was, he took a LOT of them.") Their second fight ("Superfight II," it was called at the time) was fought at an even more furious pace and was so closely contested that no more than a single point could've swayed the judges either way. A third fight was inevitable.

Punch for punch and injury for injury, there may have been no more brutal give-and-take in heavyweight history than Ali-Frazier Three. Laboring in the kind of heat and humidity that wearies even onlookers, Ali and Frazier stood toe-to-toe and hammered away at one another with all the killer instinct either could muster. When Frazier was rocked in the first round, Ali pounced, whaling away with merciless abandon- but Frazier fought back, unwilling to go down, stubbornly determined to see this one through to the bitter end. Both men have expressed enmity toward one another over the years; in this fight more than any other, it showed. It showed in every single punch, in every single round. This was tantamount to a gladiatorial duel to the death, conducted in a contemporary arena, under Marquis of Queensbury rules- "for fifteen rounds..." There have been big punchers throughout boxing history, and the Ali-Frazier Era was chock full of them: Ron Lyle, after being dropped in the second round by Earnie Shavers, would come roaring back to literally drive Shavers to the canvas headfirst in the sixth round in one of the greatest slugfests of all time- and then drop former heavyweight champion George Foreman not once but twice before going down for good the second time himself in the fifth round in one of my all-time favorite brawls. Jerry Quarry would destroy Shavers in less than one round; years later, Shavers would grind Ken Norton into ground beef in less than three minutes. Foreman would flatten Norton in two before Norton would finish Quarry in five. There were others- but neither Ali nor Frazier were considered "punchers." I've always thought this was more than a little bit odd: when Ali was forced to relinquish his title, his knockout percentage at that time was second only to Rocky Marciano's; most of Frazier's wins had come via knockout. "The Thrilla In Manila," as it came to be known, would prove, once and for all time, that BOTH men were fully capable of knocking out anyone on the face of this planet.

The ebb and flow of a fight is determined by the heart of the combatants: one man asserts his will for as long and as completely as he can before sheer physical fatigue forces him to relinquish it to his opponent. This changeover is inevitable in a prolonged struggle. No one can dive beneath the surface of the water and stay down indefinitely; you come up for air at some point- at which instant, the other man takes over and tries to undo all that you have done. Whether or not he is successful only Time will tell. And The God Of War is a fickle god, and He has been known to turn His back on even the mightiest and noblest of warriors. When Frazier began to take charge of The Thrilla, it looked as if Ali had finally come to the end of his long and distinguished career: Frazier bored in and, grunting with the effort, dug deep into the body with both hands. Ali was jarred from head to toe; sweat sprayed the air; Frazier snarled and unloaded the single most furious assault of his entire career. This was to the Death. Ali, remembering Frazier years later, would admit that no one- not Foreman, nor Lyle, nor Norton, nor Quarry, nor even Shavers- had hit him as hard as Joe Frazier hit him. Or as often. When Ali, digging about as deep as a man can dig into the well of his soul, sent Frazier's mouthpiece spiralling into the audience, it was a glorious but poignant moment: I found myself on my feet, jaw hanging open, in the closed-circuit theater where I had paid to see the fight as it was fought. Frazier had been a relatively inactive champion, but he was ALWAYS a gallant fighter, the kind of man who would take a dozen shots to the head to land one in return; a man whose heart had always dictated his fate; and when Ali rocked him, and the bloody mouthpiece was jarred loose and Frazier began, finally, to slow, to come up out of his defensive crouch to catch combination after combination, The End came rushing on. It's a hard thing to see, that kind of beating- especially when it's visited on a man whose whole aura has been that of a True Champion. Frazier wasn't then, nor was he ever, a man who didn't rate respect. In many ways the epitome of a champion, Frazier may have finished second in this one, but, in many ways that truly matter, he NEVER finished second best.


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