Looking Back At Ali-Frazier II

By Tom Donelson
Updated: August 26, 2007

IOWA CITY, Ia. — When people think of the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier trilogy, there are two fights that come to mind. The “Fight Of The Century” in March of 1971 at Madison Square Garden and the ” Thrilla in the Manila” in 1975 are the two fights that fans still talk about today.

What is often overlooked is the second fight in this trilogy. This fight occurred nearly three years after the first fight and this fight would stand as one of the best of the 70’s if not overshadowed by the two other fights.

When these two warriors met for a second time, much had changed.

During their first classic, both men took boxing to new heights in one of the most watched and crucial fights in boxing history.

After that fight, Ali went on a challenger tour to set up a rematch with Joe Frazier.

For two years, Ali won almost every fight only stumbling to Ken Norton in their first fight. He won the rematch in a razor thin decision setting up his second fight with Frazier.

As for Frazier, he was never the same fighter after the first Ali fight.

He fought a couple of non-descript challengers before facing George Foreman. Favored to beat Foreman, Frazier got clobbered in two rounds.

Foreman sent Frazier to the canvas six times and his last knockout punch lifted Frazier up in the air before sending him down. Frazier lost his title and when he faced Ali for a second time, neither fighter were champions.

On that January night at Madison Square Garden, this was considered a fight between two older challengers to Foreman’s title.

Both men were seen as nothing more than former champions and nor were there any strong beliefs that the winner could actually beat George Foreman.

Foreman was the young knockout machine at his peak. For Ali, his major obstacles to win back his title was Joe Frazier and only Ali believed that he could beat George Foreman.

The fight began fast as Ali went after Frazier with stunning accurate punches.Ali, dancing on his feet, turned back the clock and moved away from Frazier punches while nailing him with crisp combination.

The second round was not much different from the first and with one minute left, an Ali right staggered Frazier and he retreated. Ali went after the shaken Frazier with fast, flashing combinations that continuously shook him up.

Only a miracle could save Frazier and one did occur in the form of referee Tony Perez. The referee thought he heard the bell and stopped the Ali barrage. As Ali walked back to his corner, Perez realized his mistakes and had both fighters come back out of their corner.

By then, it was too late as Frazier survived the round.

Ali won the third round but by the fourth round, Frazier established his rhythm and his body shot slowed Ali down.

From the fourth round through the tenth, Frazier body shots and aggressive style tightened the fight on the score card.

Both fighters needed the 11th and 12th rounds.

Ali came out of the 11th moving and jabbing.

Just as he did early in the fight, his crisp punches took command of the round as Frazier rarely proved able to strike back.

With the 11th round in his pocket, Ali went after Frazier in the 12th. Sensing desperation, Frazier stood his ground and went for the knockout. The first two minutes were close as both fighters fought on even terms.

But the final minute was all Ali. He rediscovered his legs and nailed Frazier with rights after rights. Those rights were set up by his lightening left jab. Frazier threw massive left hooks but they hit nothing but air.

Ali took a unanimous decision and this set up his shot at George Foreman.

This fight had a pace of its own and proved superior to what passes as heavyweight bouts today.

Frazier’s ability to cut off the ring forced Ali to fight and kept the fight close.

Both fighters never slowed down until the final bell. This was an action fight from the opening bell until the very last seconds.

Without the second Ali-Frazier fight, there would be no ” Rumble in the Jungle” or “Thrilla in Manila.”

While this fight is often overlooked, it was a great fight in its own right.

At the time, no one knew how important this fight would be. Foreman looked unstoppable and he would soon demolish Ken Norton in two rounds; the same Ken Norton, who had already went 24 close rounds with Ali. After the third Ali-Frazier fight, the second fight took on importance on its own.

If Ali failed to defeat Foreman, then this fight would merely be just another good fight between two ex-champs on the down side of their career and history would even viewed the first Ali-Frazier fight differently. Foreman would have overshadowed both fighters in the 70’s.

We know the history and view this second fight as part of a boxing greatest trilogy but at the time, no one truly realized they were second act of one of boxing’s greatest dramas.