Joe Frazier put forth the effort of a lifetime — one of the all-time great heavyweight ring performances — by out-fighting and out-pointing Muhammad Ali over 15 dramatic rounds in The Fight of the Century on March 8, 1971 at Madison Sqaure Garden.
The bout between the two undefeated heavyweights — both with legitimate claims to the championship — divided a nation and captured the attention of the entire world. An estimated 300 million fans watched the heated showdown on closed-circuit television or via satellite, which earned the event’s promoters about $23 million.
The fight also lived up to its unbelievable hype. The two unbeaten champs — Frazier was 26-0, Ali was 31-0 — fought at a pace that would have worn out world-class middleweights, but they waged war until the final bell with Smokin’ Joe’s relentless pressure ultimately prevailing over the skill and savvy of Ali, who was hurt in the 11th and dropped in the final round.
The May 1971 issue of THE RING covered this historic bout, which is reprinted as part of RingTV.com’s multi-part tribute to Frazier.
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