This year will, in March, mark the 50th anniversary of “The Fight Of The Century,” the epic fight intense rivals Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier gave the world in their first meeting. Many tribute articles will no doubt come this March. Simply put, this fight lived up to all the hype and then some. We may never see a finer, more dramatic and action-packed world heavyweight title fight.
But what of Ali Vs. Frazier II? Often referred to as a let-down of a fight, certainly compared to the sensational warfare Ali and Frazier engaged in in their first and third fights, Super Fight II” was nonetheless an interesting fight. And also a somewhat controversial fight.
It was almost three years after the war of 1971 when Ali, now the number-one contender, met former champ Frazier; Joe of course having been brutally relieved of the crown by a rampaging George Foreman in January of 1973. Ali had lost to Ken Norton, this just the second defeat of his career, but he had got his revenge in the return. Now Ali had to avenge his first pro loss if he was to get a shot at new king Foreman. A sold-out Madison Square Garden wondered who had more left – Ali who had been made to work very hard in the Norton return, or Frazier, who had likewise been tested hard in his most recent fight, a decision victory over a determined Joe Bugner?
As it turned out, Ali switched tactics to the extent that it was no battle of attrition, no war – no case of who wanted it more. Ali, a smarter boxer than Joe, tied his man up and held him constantly behind the neck. This is where the first element of controversy attached to this fight comes in. Eddie Futch, trainer of Joe, actually counted how many times Ali fouled his man, and Eddie complained bitterly to referee Tony Perez. But it was to no avail; with Perez later saying that as long as Ali was only holding, not holding and hitting, he was in effect committing no foul. Futch was furious.
Ali’s tactics of holding Frazier, of rendering him ineffective, with his lethal left hook in particular, worked to a tee. Ali danced some and at times he let loose with some bursts of rapid punches, but this was more a shut his man down performance from Ali. Apart from in the second round, that is. Enter controversial element number-two.
Ali stunned Frazier with a straight right late in the round, sending his adversary wobbling to the ropes. Perez, thinking he either heard the bell or, as he said later, someone shouting “bell,” dived in and separated the two men, believing the round had indeed ended. Joe, who had certainly been buzzed, received around ten seconds in which to recover. Would Ali have stopped Frazier if Perez hadn’t messed up? Well, probably not. When we consider how, in a total of 41 rounds of fighting, Ali never once managed to knock Frazier down, it cannot really be claimed that Ali would have done it here either.
Instead, Ali won by unanimous decision. His two defeats now avenged, Ali was to head into the heart of Africa to face the mighty Foreman.