The Fight of the Century was billed as a classic match pitting Ali’s elusive speed against Frazier’s superior punching power. It was perhaps the toughest ticket to procure for any sporting event ever held in Madison Square Garden.
Ali dominated the first three rounds, his laser-like jabs finding Frazier and raising welts on the reigning champion’s face. By the fourth round, Frazier began to show dominance. Smokin’ Joe’s famed left hooks took their toll, along with crushing body shots, as Ali was often against the ropes. Fatigue showed on the older Ali by the sixth round, but he was still able to put together flurries and fight gamely against the relentless pounding that Frazier delivered.
Deep into the bout, it was still too close to call. But in the 11th round Frazier caught Ali with a staggering left hook that nearly floored The Greatest. Ali survived the round, and battled courageously. Early in the 15th, another spectacular left hook put Ali on the canvas for a brief knockdown. A few minutes later, Frazier was declared the winner by unanimous decision.
This was Ali’s greatest defeat in boxing, but he handled it with class, inspiring others by saying: "I never thought of losing, but now that it's happened, the only thing is to do it right. That's my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life."
Ali later came back to defeat Frazier in two other epic bouts, including the classic “Thrilla in Manila.”
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