On This Day In 1971, Ali And Frazier Met In “The Fight Of The Century” – Today, The Biggest Thing Is Boxing Vs. MMA

By James Slater - 03/08/2024 - Comments

Today, as we are all on tenterhooks, bracing ourselves for the promised “Knockout Chaos” to be delivered when Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou get it on in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, older fight fans – in fact, ALL boxing fans who have the appropriate respect – will celebrate the anniversary of the fight that might just have been the greatest, most anticipated, it-lived-up-to-all-the-hype heavyweight showdown of them all.

It was, on the day of March 8 of 1971, when unbeaten superstars Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier collided in New York, this inside a rocking, celebrity-laden Madison Square Garden. Both men had a legit claim to the throne, and the bitter rivalry that had so divided as well as captivated the nation, in fact the world, would be decided in the ring. The hype was immense, the fight unmissable. And everything was delivered on the night – the action superb, with both winner Frazier, and loser Ali, going up a notch or three in the opinion of all fans, experts, fellow fighters due to their efforts.

There may never be another night quite like the star-studded, anybody who was anybody was there, super occasion.

Today, the sport of boxing is vastly different; the heavyweight division in particular. Today, the mega fights take place in Saudi Arabia, or at least this has been the case over the last few months, the trend seemingly here to stay for as long as the powerful money men in Saudi wish to pay for the fights they want to see happen.

Back when Ali and Frazier went to war, the idea of a one-fight boxing novice going up against the top two or three heavyweight boxer in the world was not even a thing. But today, on the 53rd anniversary of “The Fight of the Century,” we have a former UFC heavyweight champion going up against a former two-time heavyweight boxing champion, and the sporting world is lapping it up. Better still, or worse still, depending on your view, nobody can really pick a winner with any genuine certainty.

We may get a great fight tonight; we all hope we’ll get a great fight tonight. Also, adding to the stakes, some people have said that the honour of professional boxing is on the line, that the proven boxer must defeat the MMA fighter, put him in his place. Imagine how giants like Ali and Frazier would have approached a fight with an Ngannou. Would the action have been anywhere as close as it might prove to be tonight, or as close as it was when Ngannou faced the supposed best heavyweight boxer on the planet in Tyson Fury? The older fans say no way.

But here we are, just hours to go before the biggest, or the second-biggest, heavyweight fight of the year. Let’s hope we enjoy what unfolds in Saudi later today, honestly and sincerely. But some fans, older fans of boxing, may choose to spend their evening rewatching, once again, the epic splendour of a fight that took place on this day back in 1971.

Rest assured, no matter how good tonight’s fight is, it will not come close to matching the beautiful brutality kings of the ring Ali and Frazier thrilled the world with all those years ago.

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