History | Mar 08 2019

On This Day: Joe Frazier defeats Muhammad Ali in the Fight of the Century

The famous Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier rivalry begins, writes Matt Christie
muhammad ali
Ali-Frazier

WHEN Muhammad Ali announced his retirement from boxing on February 1 1970, it looked like the end.

In the three years he had been away, Ring Magazine had continued to recognise him as champion, and armies of fans longed for his return. But with WBA boss, Jimmy Ellis, and New York champion Joe Frazier set to meet for the unified crown, Ali did what he perceived to be the right thing, and abdicate. When Frazier beat Ellis, the former king was questioned again about a possible return, despite his legal problems – stemming from his refusal to serve in Vietnam – remaining.

“I will never fight again,” he vowed. “Boxing needs me, but I no longer need boxing. My hands are clean, I owe no taxes to Uncle Sam. I am not putting my eggs into one basket in future. The bread will come from the book I’m writing – my life story; the butter from the stage; and the cream from films.