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Sucker Punch: The Hard Left Hook that Dazed Ali and Killed King's Dream


Intellectual Fraud

Intelligent Design

Mega Fix

Ron Brown

Popes & Bankers

TWA Flight 800





In his new book, Sucker Punch: The Hard Left Hook That Dazed Ali and Killed King’s Dream, Jack Cashill un-tells what may be the most mis-told story of the late twentieth century, the heroic rise of boxer, Muhammad Ali. This retelling sheds bright new light on some slighted boxing greats like Joe Louis, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman and reveals the surprising role that Christianity has played in the sports culture.

6. Why Joe Frazier Won
The Fight of the Century

No one in Ali’s camp that March 1971 night in Madison Square Garden, Ali included, had ever seen a fighter more determined than Joe Frazier. Frazier gave up ten pounds in weight, four inches in height, and nine inches in reach. To win, he was going to have to penetrate Ali’s long-range defenses. To penetrate, he was going to have to take some serious hits. To survive those hits, he was going to have to bob and weave from the waist, do it repeatedly, and do it all night, an exertion of nearly inhuman persistence and energy.

In the first four rounds, Ali tried to inflict enough hurt on the dogged Frazier to knock the drive out of him, if not knock him out altogether. Frazier took his lumps, literally, and kept on coming. “Visions of King Kong atop the Empire State building deflecting the bullets of the attacking biplanes raced through my mind,” remembers Dr. Ferdie Pacheco. Ali was winning the rounds but losing the fight.

In round five, Frazier, still hammering, forced Ali off his toes and into the ropes where he set up shop. “Frazier falls in six,” Ali had promised before the fight. Frazier would have none of it. Frazier shot out of his stool at the start of the sixth, shouting, “C’mon, sucker. This is the round. Let’s go.” In rounds seven and eight, as a form of psychological warfare, Ali started mocking Frazier and playing to the crowd.

“Don’t you know I’m God,” Ali yelled at Frazier to discourage him.

“God, you in the wrong place tonight,” Frazier shot back. “I’m kicking ass and taking names.”

In the ninth, Ali let it fly. Students of the sweet science consider it perhaps the most dazzling one-round exhibit they have ever seen. “Frazier’s face was falling apart,” remembers Pacheco. His resolve, however, was indestructible. If that kind of round could not plunge Frazier “into a well of despair,” asks sportswriter Mark Kram, “what in heaven or hell would—point-blank fire from a gun muzzle?” Ali, who gives Frazier his due in the recounting of this fight, remembers thinking, “Now I know he’ll die before he quits.”

Pacheco judged Ali the winner of the ten-round fight. The problem for Ali was that this one had to go fifteen. Frazier would not stop. “Hit me, I hit you,” Frazier muttered, “I don’t give a damn. I come to destroy you, Clay.”

The fight turned around in the eleventh. The Ali camp called it the “Gruesome Eleventh.” Frazier caught Ali with a wicked, crooked-arm left hook early in the round and sent him staggering to the ropes. “Ali’s legs shake,” commented Jose Torres from ringside. “He was tagged. That was to the button.” Ali survived the round but lost all momentum. By the start of the fifteenth, more people at the Garden were chanting “Joe . . . Joe . . . Joe” than “Ali . . . Ali . . . Ali.” “I’d proven I was no fodder for no Cassius Clay fairy tale,” remembers Frazier, who understood better than anyone how the Ali myth was being spun.

“The hell of the previous fourteen rounds was meaningless,” Pacheco observes. As most saw it, including my friends and I in a Gary, Indiana theater, the fight hung on the fifteenth. Frazier left nothing to doubt. He cleared the ground with both feet on a looping left hook that caught Ali flush on the right side of his face. “Boom,” says Frazier with deadly glee, “and there it was—Mr. Him on his butt, his legs kicking up into the air—the very picture of a beaten man.”

In Gary, we watched that knockdown on the large screen from the top of the aisle near the exit. Ali somehow staggered to his feet, his jaw now swollen to twice its size, and stayed upright until the bell. Even Frazier admits that Ali “showed big heart.” Big heart or not, no one in Gary doubted the outcome. One angry black man stormed by us at the exit, the depth of his affection for Ali no thicker than his wallet. “Muhammad Ali, my ass,” he growled. “That’s Cassius Clay.”

The decision was unanimous. Frazier raised his hands in victory, thanked the Lord, and with a bloody mouth sneered at Ali, “I kicked your ass.” Referee Arthur Mercante thought it the most vicious fight he had ever seen. Mark Kram calls it the “most skillful.” And by all accounts, it was the most dramatic. “I was twenty-seven years old, and there would never be another night like it in my life,” remembers Frazier. He spent the next three weeks in the hospital.

A more just world would have celebrated Frazier as the “Cinderella Man” of his era: the twelfth child of a rural Gullah family, who hightailed it out of the South on his own at age fifteen, developed his superior strength hauling carcasses in a slaughterhouse, and prevailed over a more privileged, more popular, more physically gifted opponent through an iron display of will not seen before or since.

From the beginning, however, careful observers knew that the story wasn’t going to play out that way.

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