The bout is often ranked as one of the greatest fights of 20th century boxing, and is the climax to the bitter rivalry between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. When Ali was stripped of the title in 1967 over his refusal to join the armed forces when drafted during the Vietnam War, Frazier had petitioned President Nixon to restore Ali’s right to box and even lent Ali money. When Ali finally got his license back, they met in the so-called Fight of the Century, the first time that two undisputed heavyweight champions had met in the ring. The mutual enmity emerged in the build up to the fight, when Ali turned on Frazier, describing him as an “Uncle Tom”, a “white man’s champion” and later, a “gorilla”. Frazier in turn riled Ali by referring to him by his birth name, Clay.
Afterwards the pair continued to trade insults, but by the time they met in a rematch, neither was a champion; Frazier had lost his title to George Foreman and Ali had recently been beaten by Ken Norton. In the build-up to the fight, the two had an infamous brawl in a TV studio while being interviewed by Howard Cosell. The fight itself was largely uneventful and Ali won on points. By 1975, Ali was champion again having unexpectedly regained the title by beating Foreman, whereas Frazier was thought to be washed up. Ali’s camp decided to give Frazier a title shot as a final payday for Joe before he retired. However, the fight proved to be a brutal, give and take affair, with each man taking a lot of punishment. The fight finally ended when Frazier’s trainer Eddie Futch refused to let Frazier come out for the 15th round, meaning Ali won by TKO.