Sugar Ray Robinson was the greatest boxer of all time.
Joe Frazier knew it, Joe Louis knew it…. Muhammad Ali knew it. Still Ali, brash young boxer who had never been defeated also knew the power of branding. If he said “Greatest” enough about himself, he would eventually win over a segment of the crowd. They would say it about him, especially once he took the heavyweight title.
Being the subject of a late 1960′s character assassination by the United States media, Muhammad Ali was vilified, and stripped of his title for refusing to join the military. Famously saying “No Viet Cong ever called ME a nigger.” he claimed status as a “conscientious objector” to the war in Vietnam. Ali successfully defended his title many times from 1963 to 1967, but this episode of his life (outside the ring) is why I call him “The Greatest”… If you check the tape however, Sugar Ray Robinson was the greatest fighter.
Muhammad Ali Deals With The Media Regarding His Refusal To Join The Military
Seeing all this, and realizing it could just as easily happen to him, another boxing legend by the name of Joe Frazier was making his mark. Although he was the number one contender at the time, he refused to participate in the tournament for the world championship belt, which took place after Ali was stripped of it.
Joe Frazier had morals, decency and a sense of fair play seldom exhibited by boxers or anyone for that matter. Joe Frazier was also a monster in the ring, who constantly slipped jabs while working his way toward his opponent; setting up one of the meanest left hooks ever known to boxing (the result of a broken arm that never healed correctly). Frazier eventually won the Heavyweight title in Ali’s absence but campaigned tirelessly on Ali’s behalf (even petitioning Then-President Nixon). Frazier also gave Ali money to get by during his years of banishment from the ring.
Joe Frazier Wins the Heavyweight Title Against Jimmy Ellis
In 1970 the supreme court overturned Ali’s banishment. Ali immediately went to work destroying fighters, but the question of his vacated title still went unanswered. This set the stage for what would be known as “The Fight Of The Century”. Although friendly outside the ring, Ali would resume all his previous braggadocio, making his friend Joe Frazier the brunt of the verbal assault. No stranger to the power of media suggestion, Ali succeeded in mis-characterizing Frazier as being the champion for the same conservative values which wrongfully stripped him of his belt. He repeatedly and publicly referred to someone who had helped him through the worst time of his life as “Uncle Tom”. Frazier was anything but an Uncle Tom, having to leave his South Carolina home at 15 to avoid trouble that came from standing up to racists. In my opinion Ali’s treatment of Joe Frazier was his lowest moment as a sportsman.
The Fight Of The Century. Joe Frazier Vs. Muhammad Ali
The “Fight Of The Century” took place at Madison Square Garden in 1971 with record purses, the biggest media coverage of all time, and even riots around the USA. The fight lived up to its name, going the 15 round distance with Ali establishing himself early on, but Joe Frazier delivering his killer left hook, putting Ali on his ass… twice… eventually emerging the victor.
Frazier would defend his title twice more, eventually losing to George Foreman. He would also have two major rematches with Ali, which he lost, ultimately developing a deep disdain for the man. Not one for media manipulation or image branding, (He was not well spoken) Frazier never successfully made the commercial revenue that a George Foreman or Ali would. He opened a boxing gym and lived out his days in Philadelphia. Frazier died of Liver cancer on Nov.7 2011 at the age of 67. He is recognized as one of the top ten greatest heavyweight champions of all time.