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November 9, 2012

Ali and Frazier in 1971: Remembering the Fight of the Century

After refusing to register for the draft in 1967, Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight championship title and endured a forced layoff from the ring for three years, at the very height of his career. In 1971, after winning the appeal of his conviction and five-year prison sentence before the U.S. Supreme Court, the former champ returned to boxing, fighting a few bouts against lesser (albeit ranked) rivals before facing the title-holder, Philadelphia’s “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier.

Long before the first bell of their March 1971 fight sounded, the contest was billed as “The Fight of the Century.” Amazingly, it lived up to the unprecedented hype that preceded it, as a star-studded crowd watched two of the greatest fighters who ever lived battle for supremacy in the world’s premier sports arena.

Muhammad Ali speaks to the press during a pre-fight weigh-in at Madison Square Garden in March 1971

Muhammad Ali, Miami Beach, Florida, 1971

Joe Frazier laughs during a break in training prior to his March 1971 title bout against Muhammad Ali

Joe Frazier works out on the speed bag before his March 8, 1971, title fight

Muhammad Ali taunts rival Joe Frazier at Frazier's training camp in Philadelphia, 1971

Muhammad Ali takes a break during training in Miami Beach in 1971

Muhammad Ali, along with light heavyweight José Torres (in suit) and others, watches the action at boxing promoter Chris Dundee's gym in Miami Beach in February 1971

Joe Frazier plays basketball in rural Pennsylvania in the winter of 1971

Joe Frazier trains in Pennsylvania in the winter of 1971

Fans crowd around Joe Frazier's training headquarters in Philadelphia in 1971

Muhammad Ali clowns around with his trainer Bundini Brown from the back seat of his new Cadillac limo in Miami on February 1971

Muhammad Ali draws a crowd as he playfully spars with an unidentified man in the parking lot of a grocery store in Miami Beach in 1971

Muhammad Ali watches himself in the mirror while jumping rope in 1971

A sign advertises a concert by Joe Frazier's R&B act, Joe Frazier and His Knockouts

Joe Frazier and His Knockouts perform in January 1971

Joe Frazier backstage before an appearance with his Knockouts in 1971

Joe Frazier in the recording studio in 1971

Joe Frazier on the set of 'Kraft Music Hall,' in 1971 with some of the era's best-known sports stars -- baseball's Boog Powell, football's Alex Karras (in glasses), hockey's Bobby Orr

Joe Frazier tests out a band member's trumpet on the set of NBC's 'Kraft Music Hall' variety show in 1971

A Muhammad Ali fan waits for the title bout to begin at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 8, 1971

A ticket window at Madison Square Garden, the site of the March 8, 1971, heavyweight title bout

Future heavyweight champ George Foreman gazes into John Shearer's camera at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971

Jazz great Miles Davis at Madison Square Garden, March 8, 1971

Muhammad Ali (right) with his long-time friend and corner man, Bundini Brown

Joe Frazier, in white shorts, fights Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden during the 'Fight of the Century' on March 8, 1971

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier rest in their corners between rounds at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971

Joe Frazier lunges at Muhammad Ali during their title fight at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971

Joe Frazier, pictured in his dressing room after defeating Muhammad Ali on March 8, 1971

Joe Frazier savors his heavyweight title bout victory over Muhammad Ali on March 8, 1971, in New York City

(Photos: John ShearerTime & Life Pictures/Getty Images)


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