Sports

Inside Muhammad Ali’s Fight of the Century vs Joe Frazier… 50 years on

It would have been the easiest $15,000 Bob Arum ever made.

Fifteen thousand for his six $150 tickets to see Muhammad Ali face Joe Frazier in the Fight of the Century.

But there was no way Arum was going to part with the hottest tickets in sporting history and this like the best Super Bowl, World Series and World Cup Final rolled into one.

Tomorrow marks the half century since the Fight of the Century at Madison Square Garden and Arum says the world wanted to be there.

“Because I was Ali’s lawyer I was able to buy six centre ringside seats, the best seats in the place,” the Top Rank chief told Mirror Fighting.

“They cost me $150 each and I remember being offered $15,000 for the six tickets. Lawyers in New York weren’t making $15,000 a year so that was an enormous amount of money.

Joe Frazier knocks down Muhammad Ali in the 15th round

“That’s the equivalent now of $50,00-60,000. I turned it down, that shows the frenzy that surrounded the fight.”

Anyone who was anyone was among the 20,455 crowd, including Gene Kelly, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Ted Kennedy, Sammy Davis Junior and Woody Allen.

Burt Lancaster was the guest colour commentator, while Frank Sinatra persuaded Life magazine to allow him to be their ringside photographer because he was so desperate to be there.

A record 300million people watched in 50 countries and fights broke out in some venues when the coverage went down.

Arum says the fight was so colossal because it reflected the division in America over the Vietnam War.

Ali had been stripped of the world heavyweight title in 1967 and barred from fighting for three years for refusing to serve in Vietnam.

“To really understand why it took on the momentum it had, why it was accorded by everybody as the sporting event of our time, it all goes back to politics and the country was politically polarised,” said Arum, who celebrates Top Rank’s 55 anniversary this year.

Frazier lands on Ali
Frazier lands on Ali

“Ali was the representative of the anti-Vietnam War movement and those speaking out for black equality.

“Frazier’s people, and not Joe, tended to be pro-Vietnam War.”

Ali portrayed Frazier as a compliant ‘Uncle Tom’ figure, kowtowing to the white establishment, even though the champion had supported him during his ban and given him money.

“Ali was just selling the fight, but Joe took it very personal,” said Arum.

This bitterness ensured the fight lived up to its massive hype.

While Arum thought Ali would beat Frazier “with ease”, his three years out of the ring had taken their toll.

Ali no longer floated like a butterfly and Frazier gradually took control of this toe-to-toe contest, pummelling his jaw with his left hook.

The showreel moment came in the 15 round when Frazier detonated a left hook on Ali’s chin and down he went.

Although Ali, his jaw badly swollen, survived to hear the final bell, he was beaten.

Frazier won by a unanimous decision, The Greatest had been humbled, boxing’s immortal was made mortal.

“I remember how sad I was because going into that last round, I had it eight to six for Frazier,” said Arum. “There were no points then, just rounds.

“I thought the only way Ali could win was to knock him out. Instead Ali got knocked down.”

Arum has seen everything since his first show promoting Ali in 1966 and says nothing tops the Fight of the Century.

“The Rumble in the Jungle doesn’t compare, nothing compares with that night,” he said.




Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button