The Vault

March 08, 2010

Every SI Story ... Every SI Photo ... Ever SI.COM/VAULT

EXCERPT | March 15, 1971

Ali Gets the Hook

A relentless Joe Frazier denied Muhammad Ali a title

On March 8, 1971, heavyweight champion Joe Frazier met former champ Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden in a bout dubbed the Fight of the Century. It was Ali's third bout after an imposed layoff of more than 3½ years for his refusal to enter the Army. Mark Kram reported for SI.

He has always wanted the world as his audience, wanted the kind of attention that few men in history ever receive. So on Monday night it was his, all of it, the intense hate and love of his own nation, the singular concentration and concern of multitudes in every corner of the earth, all of it suddenly blowing across a squared patch of light like a relentless wind. It was his moment, one of the great stages of our time, and it is a matter of supreme irony that after all the years that went into constructing this truly special night, Muhammad Ali was in fact carefully securing the details for his own funereal end—in front of the millions he moved deeply.

The people, he said, would be in the streets of Africa and Asia waiting for word of what happened, and what they have heard—by now—is what they never will really believe. The sudden evil of Joe Frazier's left hook, Ali's bold effort to steal time by theatrics, his wicked early pace that left him later without any guns and his insistence on hooking with a hooker (a bad bit of business)—all of this combined to provide the push for his long, long fall from invincibility. It left Frazier at last the only heavyweight champion of the world and the survivor of one of the most destructive fights among big men in decades.

Frazier lost his title in January 1973, when he fell to George Foreman. Ali finally regained the crown in October 1974, beating Foreman in Zaire.

SI.com | Breaking News | Real-time Scores | Daily Analysis

NFL

MLB

NBA

Olympics

College Basketball

Editor's Choice

ADVANTAGE: CAVS

Ian Thomsen breaks down the latest showdown between the Celtics and Cavaliers

Both Boston and Cleveland measure themselves against the other, and as the Celtics looked up last Friday morning LeBron James(above) suddenly appeared 11 feet tall. Over the previous two years, when both teams were whole and in sync, they had been two contenders seeking to dominate each other defensively, like opponents in an NFL championship from the 1960s. Then, all of a sudden, the Cavs overcame a torrid Boston start last Thursday to destroy the Celtics 60--32 over the second half to conclude a revealing 108--88 victory, their first in Boston in 10 games.

Featured Stories

START HIM UP

By Joe Posnanski

Are the Royals serious about making Kyle Farnsworth a starter?

DOWN AND OUT?

By Andy Glockner

How Robbie Hummel's torn ACL affects Purdue's NCAA seeding

WELCOME BACK

By Andy Staples

J.P. Prince and Tennessee upset No. 2 Kentucky and lure back hoops fans

PHOTOPhotograph by TONY TRIOLOA NIGHT TO REMEMBER After stalking Ali through the early rounds, Frazier caught him in the 11th, landing the first of a series of devastating blows, and knocked him down in the 15th. PHOTOTONY TRIOLO PHOTONEIL LEIFER PHOTOWALTER IOOSS JR. PHOTODAVID BUTLER II/US PRESSWIRE (JAMES) PHOTODAMIAN STROHMEYER (CROSBY) PHOTONANCIE BATTAGLIA (NIGHT TRAIN) PHOTOHEINZ KLUETMEIER (KIM) PHOTOED ZURGA/ICON SMI (FARNSWORTH) PHOTOJEFF WHEELER/STAR TRIBUNE (HUMMEL) PHOTODAVID MANNING/AP (PRINCE)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)