Lover of the Fancy

Early C20th American culture and dissent

The Fight of the Century: Ali vs. Frazier March 8, 1971
Michael Arkush

£20.00

It was more than the long-awaited showdown between two superb athletes in their prime, more than the ultimate test of speed and artistry versus power and endurance. It was more than a boxing match, much more. The first meeting between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971, transcended the world of sports to become a major international media spectacle with tremendous social and political overtones. In The Fight of the Century, sportswriter Michael Arkush delves behind the scenes to explore the richly textured history and the ongoing impact of one of the most important sporting events of all time, a battle not only between two undefeated champions, but between two competing views of a nation still reeling from the turbulent 1960s.

Arkush draws from interviews with Ali’s trainer, Angelo Dundee; his doctor, Ferdie Pacheco; and more than 100 others to examine how the fight, watched by more than 300 million viewers around the world, ushered in a new era of sports marketing. From then on, every game would be turned into an “event,” powered by over-the-top hype and carefully staged pageantry. This sweeping real-life saga features insightful portraits of both fighters. The outspoken Ali, coming back to boxing after a three-and-a-half-year ban for evading the military draft, was already one of the best-known human beings on the planet – a hero to millions, though certainly a thorn in the side of America’s power structure. Frazier, by contrast, did not feel compelled to constantly weigh in on the political issues of his time, though he did?refuse to call his opponent by his adopted Islamic name, instead referring to him as Cassius Clay. Among many telling details in this fascinating account, you’ll discover why Ali’s favorite foil, Howard Cosell, who had defended the champ passionately during his exile, did not call the fight, and how a prominent Hollywood agent and a California businessman teamed up to promote the event. You’ll also learn how a little-known Georgia legislator helped make Ali’s comeback possible.

Complete with photos of both fighters at the peak of their careers, The Fight of the Century is very likely the most dramatic, compelling, and moving sports story you will ever read.

Paperback, 258pp
John Wiley, 2007
ISBN 9780470056424