Oh What a Night!

By Greg Brinda

40 years ago on March 8, 1971 Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier

I was a freshman in High School

What I do remember was all the hype. Frazier was the heavyweight champ. Ali had the title stripped from him when he refused to go to Viet Nam for religious reasons.

Ali wanted the title back. He was still the “people’s champ” to some. Others hated him for a lot of reasons that were quite ignorant at the time. Seats at Madison Square Garden went for as much as 150 bucks, an unheard of price for a sporting event in 1971.

All the celebrities were there, at least those who could get a ticket. Tickets were in such demand Frank Sinatra got a media pass as a photographer.

There was no TV, no ESPN, and no radio. The only thing you got were reports on the national news and of course in the sports section of the following day’s newspaper.

It might have been the biggest sports event ever presented where you had to be there to see it live.

It was an event the whole country paid attention to. I wasn’t even that big of a boxing fan, but I knew this was something special.

It’s something I’ll never forget even though the access to information that night was limited.  Imagine if cable tv and especially ESPN exited that night. It might have been bigger than whether Brett Favre was coming back.



  1. The array of tacky 1970s attire made the fight worth the price of admission. Imagine thousands of Frenchie Fuqua/Clyde Frazier wannabes in one room.

    The political undercurrent (hardhats vs. radicals) is what made the event. There will never be another wedge figure in American sports like Ali. Today’s athletes are unwilling to make any political stance in fear of offending corporate interests (as MJ said “Republicans buy shoes too”).

    However, I have one issue with this post…..you didn’t have to be there to see it live. Unless my memory is off, this was broadcast on closed-circuit TV to movie theaters around the country. Back then, there will still a lot neighborhood movie theaters like the Detroit Theater in Lakewood and the Variety on Lorain Road.

    Closed circuit fights were commonplace from the 1960s until cable TV broke through in the 1980s.

  2. Wish I was around during this era of boxing. Had to be a great time.

  3. Greg – I thought you were in the class of ’73 ? Are you sure you were a freshman then ? Were you Montessori and Mensa ? I do remember this fight. I was a frosh in ’71 and graduated in ’75 , at any rate awesome era of boxing. Ali ballooned from Frazier’s left hooks. I remember the red tassles on Ali’s boots. Thought they looked cool !

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