MUHAMMAD ALI craved revenge over Joe Frazier in 1974. Almost three years had elapsed since “Smokin” Joe won a 15-round decision in their epic opener.
On January 28 he was given the chance and it was staged, again, inside Madison Square Garden. But with both having shed their invincible cloaks – Frazier had been bombed by George Foreman while Ali had split two bouts with Ken Norton – part two lacked the lustre of the original. Nonetheless, the intense dislike intensified between the pair. In the lead up, they were invited to review their first encounter on ABC’s Wide World of Sport. They ended up rucking in the studio, rolling around on the floor as if they were fighting in a bar. It was an ugly spectacle, for which they were both fined, but it heightened the anticipation for their rematch.
Ali began confidently, his jab like a spear, and in the second Frazier staggered under fire. Ali swarmed. Frazier was in trouble. The referee, Tony Perez, believing the round was over, leapt between them and denied Ali his chance for an early win.
“Somebody called ‘bell,'” Perez explained later, “so I stopped them both. Then the gong table yelled, ‘Tony, the round isn’t over.’ Usually I hear the bell, but the bell was defective before the fight. They had to call the electrician to fix it. It was only five to eight seconds.”
When they resumed, to complete the final 10 seconds of action in the session, Frazier had recovered.
Ali boxed well, showing he had learned lessons from fight one, and regularly exploded left and rights of his onrushing rival. Frazier, although he landed several versions of his honey punch, that leaping left hook, he struggled to repeat his success of the first encounter.
After 12 intense rounds Frazier objected to the unanimous decision that went against him but his swollen and puffy face told the correct story. Ali was unmarked. He had earned the right to challenge for his old title, 10 years after he had won it, and seven years after it had been stripped from his waist.
What happened next?
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