Often referred to as a let-down of a fight, certainly compared to the sensational warfare Ali and Frazier engaged in their first and third fights, “Super Fight II,” which took place on this day back in 1974, 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 was 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 the 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 (this in itself an underrated fight, as well as an inspired performance from Bugner).
As it turned out, Ali switched tactics when fighting Joe and his smoke a second time, 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, the 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. The usually mild-mannered Futch was furious.
Ali’s tactics of holding Frazier, of rendering him ineffective, with Joe’s lethal left hook in particular shut down, worked to a tee. Ali danced some, and at times he let loose with some bursts of rapid punches, but make no mistake; 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. Still, we will never know for sure, naturally.
Instead of getting a stoppage win, Ali won by unanimous decision. His two defeats now avenged, Ali was to head into the heart of Africa to face the mighty Foreman. What chance did the 32-year-old former king have? Not too many fans, experts, or pundits felt Ali had much of any chance of winning back the crown. Today, we all love to celebrate the magic this super-special fighter, this boxing genius, gave the world in October of ’74.