Round 12: A Glorious Era
By Mauricio Sulaimán – President of the WBC – Son of José
All of us who are passionate about sports enjoy remembering
and entering in discussions with friends about sports’ glory
moments, those memorable endings of some game, the great
stories that lead to debate between what has been most
dramatic ending or the greatest performance or who has been
We love making lists of the best and the most memorable. We
are fascinated by comparing legends from different eras,
debate what would have happened if X faced Y … if Pelé is
the best of all time, comparing him with Maradona, Messi and
Cristiano Ronaldo. If Muhammad Ali is the greatest boxer
ever, what would have been the result if he had faced Mike
Tyson? Or if Tom Brady is the best QB of all time, then
those from the Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw and Joe
Montana era quickly jump into the conversation.
Last Friday I had the opportunity to get myself into a time
capsule. My brother Héctor asked me for a list of fights
that I could recommend to watch during these #stayhome days
After making such list I got trapped into the idea of
analyzing some fights as if those were going to happen and
didn’t know the result, I immediately went to YouTube, and
embarked on a tour of boxing’s glory days at heavyweights. I
got fully involved in watching a few of these historic
fights without interruption.
It is the first time that I have been able to understand and
completely value what I have known for years and always took
for granted. The data that I once read and did not totally
analyze; the multiple talks I heard to, but did not fully
listen. I am so happy I did it, now I have a different view
of the greatness of some of the legends off our sport.
I took Ali’s return as a starting point after not boxing for
three years following his refusal to go to the Vietnam War.
Putting aside politics, the facts were simple; There is a
unified world champion in the heavyweights, the WBC / WBA
champ is Joe Frazier and Muhammad needs to regain his
championship. The fight was made, the high expectations were
built and the quality of this bout is one of the best
experiences in history.
J.Frazier (26-0) against M. Ali (31-0). Two undefeated
heavyweights at their prime.
The show was held on March 8, 1971, in Madison Square
Garden, New York, with a record ringside broadcast in 12
languages. It broke the world audience record. All
celebrities were present, even Frank Sinatra had to shoot as
photographer for Life magazine in order to enter the event.
Frazier knocked Ali down in round 15, defeating him for the
first time, and in so doing he consolidated himself as
Then…J. Frazier (29-0) vs. G. Foreman (37-0). Again, two
undefeated heavyweights at their prime.
At the Kingston National Stadium in Jamaica, the show was
held on January 22, 1973. Foreman knocked out a Frazier in
two rounds, flooring him six times! If you just see the
result, you lose the magic, but if we analyze … Joe was the
undefeated champion. He had defeated Ali, and he was the
firm favorite; while George was the challenger. The combined
record: 66 wins, no losses, with 58 knockouts!
George Foreman became the champion by tearing Frazier apart,
and continued to knock out his rivals and was considered
The following year he knocked out Ken Norton, who in turn
had beaten Ali. George accomplished this in just two rounds,
and then Rumble in the Jungle was announced.
Muhammad, meanwhile, after losing to Frazier remains active
with 12 fights in three years winning and defending the NABF
championship, a subsidiary of the WBC.
G. Foreman (40-0) vs. M. Ali (42-2). Undefeated champion
against a highly regarded Ali.
It happened on October 30, 1974 in Kinshasa, Zaire, now
known as The Congo. The WBC World Heavyweight Championship
was contested in the heart of Africa: The Rumble in the
Foreman, champion who demolished Frazier and Norton with
second-round knockout, both who had defeated Ali, seven
years younger and overwhelming favorite in the eyes of the
experts. The mistaken underdog, Muhammad Ali arrived in
Zaire and went out to the streets, reached the villages and
got close to the people; Foreman retreated in his hotel.
Ali won over the local public and that was brilliantly
charismatic. He used subtle and sometimes blunt force
psychological strategy through minty fresh tactics, and even
he hung a bloody chicken leg on the door of his rival’s
He also adapted an ingenious yet risky fight plan: to tire
and frustrate George. Ali hit him and with his immense
strength, leaned in on George. He pushed and pulled him,
staying put on the ropes, limiting George`s punching range,
expertly shielding himself from bludgeoning George,
responding by head hunting with hard laser-accurate,
slamming jabs and crunching right hands. Ali spun off the
ropes to knock out a bewildered, almost exhausted,
comprehensively outboxed and outwitted, yet always valiant
George in that legendary eighth round. Ali regained the
world championship that politics stole from him, and it was
there that the world crowned him as the greatest of all
Did you know…?
Boxing is defined by mastery of styles. Frazier beat Ali,
but Foreman defeat Frazier. And Muhammad defeated George.
Middleweight Marvin Hagler defeated Roberto Duran, yet the
latter once defeated Leonard. Sugar Ray Leonard overwhelmed
Tommy Hearns, who in turn demolished Hands of Stone; while
again Hagler took on Hearns and Sugar Ray defeated Hagler.
Styles, strategy, technique and intelligence.