Trilogies in the Past Seem to Be a Thing of the Past!
By Ken Hissner: Former heavyweight champion Muhammad “The Greatest” Ali had several trilogies. There were the three with “Smokin” Joe Frazier and Ken Norton.
There was a day when boxers way back fought one another even more than three times. Some of the more famous series were Ted Kid Lewis, who met Jack Britton 20 times. Sam Langford met Sam McVey 15 times, Harry Wills 18 times, Joe Jeanette 14 times, Jeff Clark 13 times, and Jim Barry 12 times.
During modern times Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao met Tim Bradley, Jr. 3 times, winning 2 with the loss controversial. He met Juan Manuel Marquez 4 times, going 2-1-1 with being knocked out in their final meeting.
Getting back to Ali and Frazier, they first met in one of the biggest events of modern boxing in March of 1971. Ali’s return to the ring after almost three years after he scored a pair of stoppages over Jerry Quarry and Oscar Bonavena (only time stopped in 53 fights).
Ali was 31-0 and Frazier 26-0, and both former Olympic Gold Medalists when they met for the first time. Ali lost in the heavyweight Olympic trials to Percy Price though not shown on box rec. He then dropped to light heavyweight, winning the trials. Frazier lost to Buster Mathis in the trials, but Mathis broke his thumb, so Frazier took his place.
Going into the final round of their first meeting, Frazier was up 8-6, 7-6, and 10-4, scoring a knockdown in the fifteenth and final round. Rumors were it was Frazier who went to the hospital while Ali had swelling on the side of his face the size of an orange.
It wasn’t until January of 1974 that they had their second match, and by then, Frazier had lost his title to “Big” George Foreman in January of 1973. Ali, on the other hand, had lost to Norton in March of 1973, getting his jaw broken in losing a decision. Ali had won the rematch winning the NABF title and defending it against Frazier, defeating him by scores of 6-5, 7-4, and 8-4.
In Ali’s loss to Norton, it was a split decision with scores of 7-4, 5-4, and to Ali 6-5, with Ali’s jaw being broken in the first half of the fight. It was held at the Sports Arena in San Diego, California, where Norton was from. In the rematch six months later, Ali won by split decision by scores of 7-5 and 6-5, with Norton getting a 6-5. It was held at the Forum in Inglewood, California.
In their third match in October of 1975 in the Philippines, called “The Thrilla in Manila,” Ali won when Frazier couldn’t come out for the final round. Ali later said it was the closest to death he had ever felt. Ali was well ahead after fourteen rounds by scores of 66-60, 66-62, and 67-62 and was given Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year.
Ali’s world title was at stake because he won by stopping Foreman in what was called “The Rumble in the Jungle” in Africa in October of 1974.
Another well know trilogy was between “Irish” Mickey Ward and Arturo “Thunder” Gatti. The first was in May 2002 at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. Gatti, 34-5, was penalized a point in the fourth round due to a low blow and was knocked down in the ninth round by Ward, 37-11, losing a majority decision.
In their second encounter in November at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Gatti won a lopsided decision by scores of 98-90 and 98-91 twice.
Their third and final match again at Boardwalk Hall in June of 2003, Gatti won by scores of 97-92 and 96-93, twice ending Ward’s career. Gatti would fight until July of 2007, going 4-3, being stopped in his last two fights.
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