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Grapevine: The fight of the century

The fight the boxing world has been waiting for is set. It’s Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao on May 2 in Las Vegas, in a clash variously described as “Fight of the Century” and the “Biggest fight in Boxing History”.

By David Brook

Sunday 29 March 2015, 01:00PM

David Brook and Muhammad Ali in 1996 just weeks after the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Atlanta, USA.

David Brook and Muhammad Ali in 1996 just weeks after the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Atlanta, USA.

Mayweather and Pacquiao are the two greatest boxers of their generation. Both have incredible boxing predigrees. Undefeated Mayweather has a 47-0 record, 26 knockouts and winner of world championship belts in five weight classes. Meanwhile, 36-year-old Pacquiao holds a 57-5-2 record with 38 knockouts and world titles in eight different weight classes, the first and only boxer ever to do so.

A superfight it should be. Certainly the most lucrative in boxing history, generating as much as US$250m. MGM Arena will be crammed by those fortunate to obtain tickets at the eye-watering admission prices ranging from US$1,500 to US$7,500. Millions will watch on television. It’s the best fighting the best with Mayweather currently regarded as the favourite and Pacquiao the underdog. But will it be the best ever fight in boxing?

The finest era in boxing was in the 1970s, a golden era for heavyweight boxing with the likes of Ali, Frazier, and George Foreman on top of a division overloaded with talent.

The first fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in March 1971 at Madison Square Garden was deemed by many “The Fight of the Century”. It was undoubtedly one of the most anticipated, unbeaten champion Smokin’ Joe (26-0, 23 KOs) versus unbeaten challenger Ali (31-0, 25 KOs). The fight went the distance, with Frazier winning a unanimous decision to deal Ali his first ever professional loss.

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The “Rumble in the Jungle”, Ali vs George Foreman in 1974 was another titanic battle. Stronger and seven years younger than his competitor, world champion Foreman had previously demolished the likes of Joe Frazier and Ken Norton. But in a classy display Ali knocked out Foreman in the ninth round, Foreman later admitting “Muhammad outthought me and outfought me”.

But the fight generally hailed as the greatest of all time was the 1975 “Thrilla in Manila”, the third and final boxing match between Ali and Smokin’ Joe, the culmination of their bitter rivalry. It was brutal, both boxers took a lot of punishment, and after Ali’s domination of the 13th and 14th rounds, Frazier’s trainer threw in the towel. Frazier’s eyes were swollen shut. Ali, winner by TKO, slumped on his stool, clearly spent.

Without doubt, the toughest fight in Ali’s 21-year career, spanning a remarkable 61-5 record, with 37 knockouts and a total of 552 rounds of boxing.

I had the honour to meet and spend a couple of hours with Ali in August 1996, just a couple of weeks after he lit the flame at the Atlanta Olympics. Some say Sugar Ray Robinson was the best; some say the greatest heavyweight was Joe Louis. But for me Ali is the greatest boxer who won the greatest ever boxing fight. Mayweather and Pacquiao will have to go some to change all that. Let’s get ready to rumble!!!



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