For those who may not have heard yet, the great "Smokin'" Joe Frazier passed away tonight at the age of 67. Our tribute piece from earlier tonight will be accompanied by more on the former heavyweight champ during the rest of the week.
Tonight, we offer you Joe's first and most important fight with Muhammad Ali, on March 8, 1971, at New York's Madison Square Garden.
Boxing has seen a lot of big fights, super fights, mega fights, and dream fights over its long history. Tales of the great battles are passed down through generations, and even today, though the sport is no longer the mainstream entity in the United States that it once was, I can imagine telling my children and grandchildren about some of the top fighters from my generation, the guys who made me a diehard fan of this brutal, beautiful sport, and also about those who came before, men I was lucky enough to see through the eyes of those who knew them as active fighters instead of legendary myths. And even more lucky, many of those men have been immortalized thanks to video technology.
Two of those men are the departed Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. I was not alive in 1971, and one of my reservations with talking about fights from before my time is that I truly believe that to have a sense of what a fight really was, you have to experience it, you have to be there for it all. The pre-fight hype, the chatter from those you know, the arguments with friends and neighbors and now screennames and avatars.
I did not experience Ali vs Frazier, but I think it's safe to say that the fight has an argument for being not just one of the great battles of all-time, but the most culturally significant and relevant fight in the history of boxing. If we ever get to see it, Mayweather vs Pacquiao will be a big fight. A super fight. A mega fight. A dream fight. It will make more money than any fight ever has. It will almost certainly sell more pay-per-views and generate more online buzz than any fight ever has.
But it will never, ever be Ali vs Frazier. It's just not the same world anymore.
It was Joe Frazier's greatest night.