When it comes to boxing coverage, Colin Hart is royalty. After Hart started writing about sweet science in the first half of the 1960s, he saw it all. But nothing came close to the truly “gigantic” first affair between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1971.
« It was the first fight I fought in America, and it wasn’t bad to start with, » said Hart the Betfred Boxing Show.
« We know Ali and Frazier fought three times and we had the fight in Zaire (‘The Rumble in the Jungle’ versus George Foreman), the ‘Thrilla in Manilla’ – but that is always the one who stays in your memory. »
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the legendary « Fight of the Century » that Ali and Frazier shared in New York’s Madison Square Garden. It’s scrap that still sets the bar for any heavyweight showdown in terms of size and importance.
Crooner Frank Sinatra had to make an appearance as the ring photographer for LIFE magazine, during the tough Hollywood guy and three times Oscar winner Burt Lancaster was forced to provide some color commentary for the broadcast of the fight to get closer to the action. This was no ordinary boxing match.
“It was gigantic in every way. When we received our press cards from the press officer in the garden, he gave them to each of us, ”Hart continued, putting a red cap with an Ali vs Frazier logo in the frame to show the co-hosts of the boxing show Dom McGuinness and Anthony Crolla during her conversation about Zoom.
Hart recalls that one of his « pompous » colleagues, who questioned the importance of the press wearing the hat and claimed he would not be seen dead in one, was warned, « I would if I were you. We’ll be sold out and there will be 5,000 people without tickets outside trying to crash a gate. When there is a riot, the cops want to know which heads to hit. » and which ones don’t. »
Amid the pantheon of famous athletic rivalries, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali are still comfortably seated at the top of the best. The couple embodied everything boxing can be when they met in the ring – elegance, beauty and brutality. It was never clearer than in that first argument half a century ago.
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