IT was a battle between two hall-of-famers at very different stages of their respective careers. For Muhammad Ali it was an important fight just before what was arguably the best years of his career – with wins over Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Ken Norton still to come. For Floyd Patterson it would be the last time he graced a boxing ring, a glittering career crashed to an end with an emphatic loss. The final image of the former heavyweight champion of the world’s career; departing from the arena with his left eye almost completely swollen shut in front of 17,378 spectators at Madison Square Garden.
Before the fight the undisputed heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, who had already defeated Ali in the first matchup of their famous trilogy, was brought into the ring and introduced to the crowd. A theatrically enraged Ali went after Frazier, but would have to wait another 14 months before the pair met again, in the exact same ring, for their eventual rematch.
The rematch – Ali had cruelly gunned down Patterson in 1965 – started out evenly enough, with both fighters bringing forth their familiar style. Ali danced around Patterson, controlling the range with a casual flick of the jab, whilst Patterson found occasional success with a lunging left hook – a punch which had already floored Ali at the hands of Sonny Banks, Henry Cooper and Joe Frazier. After an inauspicious start it was in the third round when the tempo picked up, Ali unleashed his right and Patterson began to cut the distance, working well on the inside. An overhand right caught Patterson flush on the ropes, and the champion began to unload. Deciding to take his time, for most of the fourth Ali barely threw a punch, instead bending over with his chin out and inviting Floyd to go to work, delighting at every evaded punch.