For his part, Frazier, the raging undercurrent of his resentment boiling to the top at being called a "gorilla," responded to Ali's verbal gibes and jabs with, "It's real hatred. I want to hurt him...I don't want to knock him out, I want to take his heart out.
Ali and Frazier, Frazier and Ali, those two great fighters shared one final evening of greatness together October 30, 1974, in a fight permanently etched in history-and in the memory of the millions who saw it and the millions more who heard or read about it afterwards.
The two had faced each other two times before, 27 rounds, with each winning a decision. Now they would fight 14 more rounds in this bedrock of rivalries to determine their statistical superiority. What they gave us was one of the greatest fights of all time.
Ali wanted this fight, his fourth defense since winning the heavyweight title from George Foreman less than a year earlier, not only to show that by beating Joe Frazier two out of three times he was indeed "The Greatest," but because he believed Frazier was washed-up, a mere shadow of his former self, asking, "What kind of man could take all these punches to the head?"
Then, adding to his normal background music, Ali not only named the fight but contemptuously added Frazier to his Rogue's Gallery of nicknames-to go along with calling Liston "The Bear," Patterson "The Rabbit," Chuvalo "The Washwoman," and Foreman "The Mummy"-by rattling off a typical Ali-ism: "It'll be a killa, a chilla, a thrilla, when I get The Gorilla in Manila." Adding, "Frazier is so ugly, he should donate his face to the U.S. Bureau of Wild Life." For his part, Frazier, the raging undercurrent of his resentment boiling to the top at being called a "gorilla," responded to Ali's verbal gibes and jabs with, "It's real hatred. I want to hurt him...I don't want to knock him out, I want to take his heart out."
However, it wasn't Frazier who hurt Ali in the opening rounds, but, instead, Ali who, standing flat-footed in the center of the ring, stung Frazier time and again, peppering him with quick punches, mostly right-hand leads as Frazier continued to press forward into the line of fire, head up. Before the third round, Ali, so confident of his ability to handle Frazier, stood in his corner blowing kisses to the crowd. But Frazier was far from harmless in the third, finally finding a resting place for one of his industrial-strength lefts, catching Ali on the chin. And although Ali went into one of his little "Ali-bi" charades to make the crowd and Frazier think it was little more than a postman's knock, it was to be the vague stirring of a comeback for "Smokin' Joe."
For the next three rounds, with Ali now bivouacked against the ropes, Frazier tee'd off on Ali, frescoing him with lefts to the body, trying his mightiest to beak the defending champ into smaller, neater pieces. Coming out for the seventh, now convinced he was in a fight and informed how wrong his preconceptions had been, Ali said to his tormentor: "Old Joe Frazier...why I thought you were washed up." Frazier's reply was as pointed as one of his left hooks: "Somebody told you wrong, pretty boy," punctuating his remark with a bone-rattling left.