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The Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali wars remain quite simply the greatest trilogy in boxing history. With the recent passing of Joe Frazier fans are left to again contemplate the importance of those fights.
The third fight, the “Thrilla in Manila” is often the most glamorized of the three fights. It had the catchy nickname and was the rubber match of these two living legends now beginning to show their age.
Muhammad Ali dominated the first few rounds, and it seemed like his prediction of a Joe Frazier knockout may finally come true. Ali unleashed his entire arsenal in the first few rounds, but Frazier stood there asking for more. Ali would tire and Frazier's clubbing body shots began to take their toll.
By round 12 Frazier's pace was slowing and Ali was showing enough spurts of energy to again seize momentum. In Round 13 Frazier's left eye was swollen shut. He would not have cared except his right eye had been blind for years. Sightless, Frazier would continue to bore in, sense the body and swing for it. By the 14th round Eddie Futch could not let his man go back out and threw in the towel with Frazier pleading for one more round.
Their first bout, dubbed “The Fight of the Century” is one of the few events to actually live up to its billing. Never again will we see two undefeated heavyweight champions go head to head in the prime of their careers. Muhammad Ali won two out of three fights and thus the trilogy, but it could be Frazier’s performance in the first bout that lives on. Never have such styles, both in and out of the ring complemented each other so perfectly.
Frazier wore down Ali for 14 rounds, absorbing jab after jab before unleashing the most legendary punch in fighting history. The scene continues to replay itself in slow motion: Frazier leaping with that hook to reach the taller opponent, followed by Ali crashing majestically towards the canvas. The hook heard ‘round the world will be the lasting image of the late Joe Frazier; a man with indomitable will power defeating a much more talented opponent.
Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez have a hell of a legacy to live up to.
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