1971-03-08 Joe Frazier w pts 15 Muhammad Ali, Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA - WORLD
1971-03-08 Joe Frazier w pts 15 Muhammad Ali, Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA - WORLD. Referee: Arthur Mercante. Scorecards: 8-6, 9-6, 11-4. In one of the greatest fights in the history of the division, and in one where neither would ever be the same again, Ali (215) proved himself a real fighting man despite losing by a unanimous decision. The fight was fairly even right up until the latter stages, with Ali jabbing and moving as was expected while Frazier (205½) continually looked to work on the inside. By the tenth Frazier’s right eye was beginning to swell, but in the 11th he almost had Ali over from a crashing left hook to the head. It was at this point that Frazier began to forge ahead. And in the 12th he staggered Ali badly, although the latter came back well with jabs to even the round up according to the referee. The 13th was a big round for Frazier, who was landing all the solid punches and crowding Ali non-stop as he went for the kayo. By the 14th Frazier’s left eye was beginning to swell up, but he was the one throwing the more solid punches, flooring Ali with a smashing left hook to the jaw in the final session. Taking the ‘eight’ count Ali was almost spent, his jaw badly swollen and just sheer guts keeping him going. Somehow Ali kept his feet to last out until the final bell, having refused to quit at the end of the 11th after the doctor had asked him if he was fit to continue.
In the aftermath, Ali vowed to get his title back. Meanwhile, at the end of June there was good news when Ali finally won his four-year legal battle with the US Government after the Supreme Court overturned his suspended jail sentence for refusing to serve in the Army. The Court went on to say that the process in which Ali was denied conscientious objector status was flawed and should be dismissed.
Back in the ring, looking to make up for lost time, Ali won the North American Boxing Federation title when beating his old sparring partner, Jimmy Ellis, and defended it against Buster Mathis, George Chuvalo, Jerry Quarry, Floyd Patterson and Bob Foster before losing to Ken Norton. Regaining the NABF title in his next contest, beating Norton (w pts 12 at the Inglewood Forum, Los Angeles, California on 10 September 1973), he went on to also turn the tables on Frazier (w pts 12 at Madison Square Garden on 28 January 1974) in what was a final eliminator for the world title.