On March 8, 1971, millions of Americans tuned in for the "Fight of the Century" between Muhammad Ali and Smokin' Joe Frazier. See if you can survive a round in the ring with these trivia questions..
Why Was This Fight Called "The Fight of the Century"? The battle that took place at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971, was one of the most anticipated match-ups in sports history. The bout marked Ali's return to the ring after a three-year ban from the sport for refusing to join the armed forces in the Vietnam War. As a result, Ali became a symbol of the anti-war movement and he used that persona to portray his opponent as a symbol of the pro-war establishment and an "Uncle Tom." The media ate it up and heralded the match as a "hero's return" for Ali. In addition to that narrative, both Ali and Frazier held legitimate claims to the title of "World Champion." Ali had won the title in 1964 and successfully defended it until his ban from boxing in 1967. In Ali's absence, the undefeated Frazier earned the title. The combination of media hype and reality of the two greatest boxers coming head-to-head brought unprecedented attention to the fight.
Who Won the Fight? Spectators who expected to see a true battle certainly got their money's worth. The fight went a full fifteen rounds, with Ali coming out strong during the first three and landing some powerful blows on Smokin' Joe. The next 12 rounds, however, would be largely dominated by Frazier. His powerful left hook punished Ali throughout the fight, knocking him down in the 11th and 15th rounds. In the end, the three judges unanimously declared Frazier the winner, thus retaining the World Champion title. Despite the judges' decision and the fact that 22 of 25 sports writers also gave the fight to Frazier, Ali refused to admit defeat. He called the victory a "white man's decision" and immediately began training for a rematch.
Did Frazier and Ali Ever Meet in the Ring Again? Yes, twice more. Their next match-up came in 1974, though this time, it was not for the title of World Champion. Frazier had lost that title to George Foreman a year earlier, and the winner of this fight would go on to face Foreman for his chance at regaining the title. This time, it was Ali who walked away from the fight with a unanimous victory after twelve rounds. His victory set him up for "The Rumble in the Jungle" championship bout against Foreman, a young powerhouse who was heavily favored for victory. However, Ali came out on top in this fight, too. Ali regained the World Champion title and set up "The Thrilla in Manilla"—his third and final bout against Frazier. This third fight is widely regarded as one of the greatest sports match-ups in history. Despite going fourteen rounds, Frazier could not defeat the red-hot Ali. Ali came out on top again and retained his title against Frazier.
Did the Two Ever Establish a Friendship? Not really. Prior to "The Fight of the Century," the two were actually close friends. Frazier even testified on behalf of Ali during his ban from the boxing world. But Ali's trash-talking throughout the early 1970s forever left a bad taste in Frazier's mouth and their friendship never fully recovered. Ali made a couple of half-hearted apologies through the media over the next few decades, but at best, the two had a mutual respect—never really a friendship. When Frazier passed away in 2011, Ali attended the funeral and said of his long-time rival, "the world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration."