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Looking Back At Ali-Frazier II, and the Studio Brawl

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It was January 17th 1974, which incidentally was Muhammad Ali’s 32nd birthday. Joe Frazier had turned 30 five days earlier. The show actually aired on January 24th, four days before their rematch on the 28th. Eleven days before they met for a second time, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were guests on the Dick Cavett show, which aired on ABC. The show opened with Cavett going to Ali’s training camp in Deer Lake, PA and watching him train for his upcoming rematch with Joe Frazier.

During the filming that Cavett aired, Ali excoriates Frazier in every demeaning way possible. You know the Ali routine – he goes into how Joe has no style, he’s dumb and can’t talk, how Joe has nothing but a hard head and a left-hook. Ali comes off as very being very dismissive and even funny, as long as you’re not Joe Frazier.

After 10-12 minutes of B-roll footage with Ali, they switch to Frazier’s training camp in Philadelphia, PA. Mike Parkinson, a popular BBC host, is covering Frazier. What can be said about Joe other than he’s a true fighter and is only interested in getting the job done, which is beating Ali again. Frazier is not dismissive of Ali and promises that the rematch will be nothing more than a repeat of the first fight, except it might not go the distance. Incidentally, the Frazier B-roll footage is no more than six minutes.

When the footage of both fighters training concludes, Cavett and Parkinson discuss their experiences at both fighters camps and compare and contrast both men as to their approach to fighting and training. Then Cavett says the last time my next two guest met this is what happened, and highlights of the first clash between Joe and Muhammad appears on the screen. When the highlight ends Cavett introduces Ali and then Frazier as they walk down to the stage from different entrances. Ali and Frazier slap each other five and then sit with Ali on the far left, with Cavett next to him and Parkinson next to Frazier, who is seated on the far right. Cavett moderates most of the discussion with Parkinson occasionally adding his thoughts and asking each fighter pointed questions about the other. The topics covered vary and range from, would you allow your son to box and what does each fighter do to try and conserve energy being that the country is right in the midst of the energy crisis of the early to mid 1970s. At this time George Foreman is the undefeated and undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and both fighters confirm that their rematch is just a stepping stone in order for them to get a shot at Foreman and the title.

During the hour that Muhammad and Joe are the focal point of the show, Ali goes out of his way to demean Frazier and all that he’s accomplished as a man and professional fighter. He belittles everything Joe says and aggressively and passive aggressively goes out of his way to get a reaction from Joe. Frazier is very measured in his response and basically says that he’ll do his talking in the ring on the 28th of January. However, it doesn’t take much to see that Frazier is seething inside and would’ve been happy to settle the dispute right there.

When the filming of the show concluded Frazier left in a haste and vowed that he would not interact with Ali until they were at center ring on the night of the fight, a vow that Joe had to break because they were obligated to sit with Howard Cosell on the Wide World of Sports the Saturday afternoon before the fight to watch a replay of their first fight on March 8th, 1971. This was an appearance that Frazier was hellbent on getting out of because he didn’t want to be subjected to Ali’s words and antics again before the fight. When all was said and done, Joe capitulated to Cosell. What happened was Cosell promised Frazier that he would sit between he and Ali and that he wouldn’t let Ali talk about race, religion, politics or whatever else wandered into Ali’s mind. Cosell was adamant to Frazier that he could keep the discussion on boxing and what happened during their first fight and what will happen this coming Monday night. Frazier gave in and agreed to sit on the same platform as Ali one more time due to him trusting Cosell to keep the conversation on boxing.

Heading into the Wide World of Sports show Frazier was looking to get at Ali this time and didn’t really trust Cosell. Joe was certain that Howard favored Ali and would lose control once Ali started his expected routine. So on January 26th Ali and Frazier appeared on ABC’s Wide World of Sports to review the tape of their first fight, which was being aired for the very first time on home TV. Before the show started Joe’s hostility towards Ali and Cosell escalated because Howard had already broken his first promise – that being he would sit between both fighters. As it turned out, Ali was seated on the far left with Joe being sandwiched in the middle between Ali and Cosell, who sat on the far right. For the first nine and a half rounds of the broadcast, it was Frazier who took a few more shots at Ali instead of the expected opposite. As most boxing fans know Ali went to the hospital immediately after the first fight to get his jaw x-rayed, and then was released when they came back negative. Conversely, on Tuesday, March 16, 1971 Joe Frazier was admitted to St. Luke’s Children Medical Center in Philadelphia. Frazier had been feeling weak, and his blood pressure had escalated. Also, Joe was experiencing ‘flu-like’ symptoms. Eight days later Frazier was released and given a clean bill of health.

During the viewing of the 10th round Frazier brought up the fact that it was he, Ali, who went to the hospital after the fight, a comment that set Ali back and he retaliated saying basically that he was in and out of the hospital in 10 minutes for x-rays. He then continued, saying it was you, Joe, who was in and out of intensive care for two weeks. Ali then says to Cosell can you believe he’s even gonna bring up who went to the hospital, that just shows how dumb and “ignorant” he is. To which Frazier says, “Why you say I’m ignorant?” And with that Frazier took off his head set and got up, saying to Ali, “Why you think I’m Ignorant”?

As Frazier stood over Ali asking why he thought he was ignorant, Ali said sit down Joe in a somewhat diversionary manner. At this time Ali’s younger brother Rahman walked towards Frazier and Joe asked if he was in this too. With that Ali yelled “Quick Joe” and jumped up and grabbed him around the neck as he pulled him down to the floor. The fighters were quickly pulled apart with Frazier leaving the studio, saying I’ll see you Monday night with Ali retorting, “You be there.”

It’s funny because of all the sh*t Ali talked, especially to Frazier, it was Joe who actually drew the first blood when he said Ali went to the hospital after their first fight. And that was because of the treatment Frazier was subjected to by Ali during the taping of the Dick Cavett show. Yes, it was Frazier who went into the Wide World of Sports broadcast looking for the confrontation with Ali which was actually a roll reversal on the part of both fighters.

Ali stayed and finished the broadcast with Cosell but it wasn’t the same without Frazier there even though Cosell did his best to speak on behalf of Joe. The next day both Ali and Frazier were fined $5000.00 dollars apiece for their conduct by the New York state athletic commission.

Two days later Ali won a very quick paced fight via a 12-round unanimous decision (6-5-1) (8-4) (7-4-1). For the rematch Ali weighed 212, three pounds lighter than he was for their first fight and Frazier was four pounds heavier at 209.

The fight is the least regarded of the three epic meetings between Ali and Frazier, although today a heavyweight bout contested at that pace would be deemed an instant classic the next day.

Today, 40 years later Ali-Frazier II is best remembered by some for the studio brawl that erupted two days before the bout. Some suggested at the time that the studio brawl was a hoax and just a ploy to hype the fight. To those who felt that way then or think that way now, you couldn’t be more wrong. Joe Frazier was no actor. He was sick and tired of Ali’s mouth leading up to and after their first bout. Frazier felt that Ali’s personality and bravado robbed him out of his just due for kicking his butt the first time they met. Ali had convinced everyone in the two and a half years after their 1971 fight, that it was he, not Frazier, who actually won, something that couldn’t be further from the truth. Joe knew that he conclusively beat Ali in their only fight to date at that time and never received his due props.

When he went to the ABC studio on January 26th 1974, Frazier was looking to confront Ali in a big way. And when Muhammad called him ignorant, that was all he needed. The studio brawl between Ali and Frazier in January 1974 was real on Frazier’s part. Ali just did what he always does, he took chicken sh*t and made it chicken stew.

Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@comcast.com

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Arne’s Almanac: Jake Paul and Women’s Boxing, a Curmudgeon’s Take

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Jake Paul can fight more than a little. The view from here is that he would make it interesting against any fringe contender in the cruiserweight division. However, Jake’s boxing acumen pales when paired against his skill as a flim-flam artist.

Jake brought a 9-1 record into last weekend’s bout with Mike Perry. As noted by boxing writer Paul Magno, Jake’s previous opponents consisted of “a You Tuber, a retired NBA star, five retired MMA stars, a part-time boxer/reality TV star, and two undersized and inactive fall-guy boxers.”

Mike Perry, a 32-year-old Floridian, was undefeated (6-0, 3 KOs) as a bare-knuckle boxer after forging a 14-8 record in UFC bouts. In pre-fight blurbs, Perry was billed as the baddest bare knuckle boxer of all time, but against Jake Paul he proved to have very unrefined skills as a conventional boxer which Team Paul undoubtedly knew all along. Perry lasted into the eighth round in a one-sided fight that could have been stopped a lot sooner.

Jake Paul is both a boxer and a promoter. As a promoter, he handles Amanda Serrano, one of the greatest female boxers in history. That makes him the person most responsible (because the buck stops with him) for the wretched mismatch in last Saturday’s co-feature, the bout between Serrano and Stevie Morgan.

Morgan, who took up boxing two years ago at age 33, brought a 14-1 record. Nicknamed the Sledgehammer, she had won 13 of her 14 wins by knockout, eight in the opening round. However, although she resides in Florida, all but one of those 13 knockouts happened in Colombia.

“We found that in Colombia there were just more opportunities for women’s boxing than in the United States,” she told a prominent boxing writer whose name we won’t mention.

The truth is that, for some folks, Colombia is the boxing equivalent of a feeder lot for livestock, a place where a boxer can go to fatten their record. The opportunities there were no greater than in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1995. It was there that Peter McNeeley prepped for his match with Mike Tyson with a 6-second knockout of professional punching bag Frankie Hines. (Six seconds? So it would be written although no one seems to have been there to witness it.)

Serrano vs Morgan was understood to be a stay-busy fight for Amanda whose rematch with Katie Taylor was postponed until November. Stevie Morgan, to her credit, answered the bell for the second round whereas others in her situation would have remained on the stool and invented an injury to rationalize it. Thirty-eight seconds later it was all over and Ms. Morgan was free to go home and use her sledgehammer to do some light dusting.

The Paul-Perry and Serrano-Morgan fights played out in a sold-out arena in Tampa before an estimated 17,000. Those without a DAZN subscription paid $64.95 for the livestream. Paul’s next promotion, where he will touch gloves with 58-year-old Mike Tyson (unless Iron Mike pulls a Joe Biden and pulls out; a capital idea) with Serrano-Taylor II the semi-main, will almost certainly rake in more money than any other boxing promotion this year.

Asked his opinion of so-called crossover boxing by a reporter for a college newspaper, the venerable boxing promoter Bob Arum said, “It’s not my bag but folks who don’t like it shouldn’t get too worked up over it because no one is stealing from anybody.” True enough, but for some of us, the phenomenon is distressing.

The next big women’s fight happens Saturday in Detroit where Claressa Shields seeks a world title in a third weight class against WBC heavyweight belt-holder Vanessa Lepage-Joanisse.

A two-time Olympic gold medalist, undefeated in 14 fights as a pro, Shields is very good, arguably the best female boxer of her generation which makes her, arguably, the best female boxer of all time. But turning away Lepage-Joanisse (7-1, 2 KOs) won’t elevate her stature in our eyes.

Purportedly 17-4 as an amateur, the Canadian won her title in her second crack at it. Back in August of 2017, she challenged Cancun’s Alejandra Jimenez in Cancun and was stopped in the third round. Entering the bout, Lepage-Joanisse was 3-0 as a pro and had never fought a match slated for more than four rounds.

Vanessa Lepage-Joanisse

Vanessa Lepage-Joanisse

True, on the women’s side, the heavyweight bracket is a very small pod. A sanctioning body has to make concessions to harness a sanctioning fee. Nonetheless, how absurd that a woman who had answered the bell for only 11 rounds would be deemed qualified to compete for a world title. (FYI: Alejandra Jimenez was purportedly born a man. She left the sport with a 12-0-1 record after her win over Franchon Crews Dazurn was changed to a no-contest when she tested positive for the banned steroid stanozolol.)

Following her defeat to Jimenez, Vanessa Lepage-Joanisse, now 29 years old, was out of action for six-and-a-half years. When she returned, she was still a heavyweight, but a much slender heavyweight. She carried 231 pounds for Jimenez. In her most recent bout where she captured the vacant WBC title with a split decision over Argentina’s Abril Argentina Vidal, she clocked in at 173 ¼. (On the distaff side, there’s no uniformity among the various sanctioning bodies as to what constitutes a heavyweight.)

Claressa Shields doesn’t need Vanessa Lepage-Joanisse to reinforce her credentials as a future Hall of famer. She made the cut a long time ago.

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Former World Bantamweight Champion Richie Sandoval Passes Away at Age 63

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Richie Sandoval, who won the WBA and lineal bantamweight title in one of the biggest upsets of the 1980s and then, not quite two years later, suffered near-fatal injuries in a title defense, has passed away at the age of 63.

News circulated fast in the Las Vegas boxing community on Monday, July 22, the grapevine actuated by a tweet from Hall of Fame matchmaker Bruce Trampler: “Boxing and the Top Rank family lost one of our own last night in the passing of former WBA bantamweight champion Richie Sandoval. It hurts personally and professionally to know that Richie is gone at age 63. RIP campeon.”

Details are vague but the cause of death was apparently a sudden heart attack that Sandoval experienced while visiting the Southern California home of his son of the same name.

Richie Sandoval put the LA County community of Pomona, California, on the boxing map before Shane Mosley came along and gave the town a more frequently-cited mention in the sports section of the papers. He came from a fighting family. An older brother, Albert “Superfly” Sandoval, became a big draw at LA’s fabled Olympic Auditorium while building a 35-2-1 record that included a failed bid to capture Lupe Pintor’s world bantamweight title.

Richie was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic boxing team that was stranded when U.S. President Jimmy Carter (and many other world leaders) boycotted the event as a protest against Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.

As a pro, Sandoval’s signature win was a 15th-round stoppage of Jeff Chandler. They fought on April 7, 1984 in Atlantic City. Chandler was making the tenth defense of his world bantamweight title.

Despite being a heavy underdog, Sandoval dominated the fight, winning almost every round until the referee stepped in and waived it off. Chandler, who was 33-1-2 heading in and had avenged his lone defeat, never fought again.

Sandoval made two successful defenses before risking his title against Gabby Canizales on the undercard of Hagler-Mugabi in the outdoor stadium at Caesars Palace. In round seven, Sandoval, who had a hellish time making the weight, was knocked down three times and suffered a seizure as he collapsed from the third knockdown. Stretchered out of the ring, he was rushed to the hospital where doctors reduced the swelling in his brain and beat the odds to save his life. This would be Richie’s lone defeat. He finished his pro career with a record of 29-1 (17 KOs).

Bob Arum cushioned some of the pain by giving Richie a $25,000 bonus and offering him a lifetime job at Top Rank which Richie accepted. And let the record show that Arum was good to his word.

A more elaborate portrait of Richie Sandoval was published in these pages in 2017. You can check it out HERE. May he rest in peace.

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Amanda Serrano and Jake Paul Vanquish Overmatched Foes in Tampa

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Amanda “the Real Deal” Serrano mowed through knockout puncher Stevie Morgan in less than two rounds on Saturday and Jake Paul soundly defeated bare knuckle champion Mike Perry by knockout too.

Paul and Serrano move on to bigger things.

“It’s feels great, it feels amazing. My 50th fight, my 31st knockout, I’m super blessed,” said Serrano.

Despite jumping up three weight divisions Serrano (47-2-1, 31 KOs) showed more than 17,000 fans and Morgan (14-2, 13 KOs) at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, how she was able to win seven weight divisions.

Fans and perhaps Katie Taylor breathed a sigh of relief that Serrano is truly back. In Serrano’s last fight she was forced to withdraw back in March due to an accident to her eye moments before a fight. Now the Puerto Rican and Irish super stars will meet in Texas on November 15.

Fans can expect a rematch of one of the greatest fights of all time.

Tonight, before walking into the boxing ring, Morgan had commented that of all the top female fighters Serrano was low hanging fruit. The Puerto Rican legend merely shrugged her shoulders and replied that she lets her fists do the talking.

Both fighters hesitated touching gloves but did. After that, Serrano immediately went into assassin’s mode and moved forward while punching like a finely tuned hemi-engine. Morgan tried to keep up but discovered Serrano was not easy to hit.

Serrano moved forward smoothly while slipping and punching. A stiff looking Morgan, whose legs seemed unbent, tried to fend off the Puerto Rican champion’s blows but was smacked repeatedly in the first round with lefts and rights.

When the bell rang to end the first round, it was obvious that Morgan was overmatched.

As the second round commenced Serrano immediately slipped into attack gear behind her southpaw defensive guard. Once again, she fired combinations while moving quickly forward against the taller Morgan.

It was even worse than the first round as Serrano unloaded a dozen unanswered blows forcing the referee to stop the fight at 38 seconds of the second round.

“I think these girls were mistaking my kindness for weakness,” said Serrano. “If you’re not on my level that’s what happens.”

Morgan quickly learned she’s not on the championship level.

“Stevie Morgan just started a little while ago. I knew it would have been a little too much for her,” said Serrano. “My hat goes off to her. It’s not easy.”

Now it’s on to Katie Taylor.

Jake Paul KOs Mike Perry

In the co-main event Jake Paul (10-1, 7 KOs) floored Mike Perry (6-1) the Bare Knuckle Champion in the first and second round of the cruiserweight fight. And then battered the smaller fighter with a jolting jab to the body and head that opened up cuts on the former MMA fighter.

Paul continued to show improvement and proved once again that whether its MMA or Bare Knuckle fighting, his boxing skills are superior to their combat champions.

“Man, he’s tough as nails. I’m sorry it took so long. Respect man. He’s the king of violence,” said Paul about his fallen foe whose nickname is the “King of Violence.”

Paul attacked the body with a strong left jab while circling slowly left and right. Perry stood straight up with a low guard and his chin up. Paul hit that chin repeatedly and eventually cracked it in the fifth round.

Perry survived.

In the sixth round the bigger blonde fighter Paul bludgeoned Perry with another left jab and then opened with a barrage of blows that blasted the bare knuckle fighter to the canvas. Though he beat the count, he stumbled and the referee stopped the fight at 1:12 of the sixth round.

“I kind of expected that,” said Paul.

Perry was honest about the outcome.

“I tried man, but the kid hit me hard,” said Perry.

Now it’s on to Mike Tyson on November 15 in Arlington, Texas.

“Mike. I love you. But this is my sport now. I’m so honored but I’m going to take your throne.”

Other Bouts

A lightweight battle between undefeated fighters saw Canada’s Lucas Bahdi (17-0, 15 KOs) lose every round until he unloaded a three-punch combination that rendered Ashton Sylve (11-1, 9 KOs) unconscious before he hit the canvas.

Sylve utilized his speed and counters for five rounds and seemed to cruise for five years. But Bahdi showed a good chin especially against lightning uppercuts that sneaked through the guard.

“He’s very twitchy and very quick. I was trying to get to his body early on,” said Bahdi. “He’s very fast and has good counter punches.

In the sixth round Sylve was opening up a little more with his hands down and Bahdi saw the opening and quickly launched a right followed by a left hook that knocked out Sylve before he hit the floor at 2:27 of the sixth round.

“I knew his head’s there in the center all the time,” said Bahdi. “I think I stole the show tonight.”

Prelim Bouts

A rematch between lightweights saw Corey Marksman (10-0-1) win by majority decision against Tony Aguilar (12-1-1) in a back-and-forth battle. Marksman out-worked Aguilar with an especially effective counter-right that scored repeatedly. Their first encounter last February ended in a draw.

Shadasia Green (14-1, 11 KOs) stumbled a bit but got the win against Natasha Spence (8-5-2) to win by unanimous decision in a super middleweight. It was her first fight since losing to Franchon Crews-Dezurn for the world title.

Green was cruising for most of the fight behind a sharp jab and rights to the body but during an offensive out burst Spence caught her with a counter right and floored her in the seventh. It was half punch and half slip, but she was knocked down.

Though Green did not get a knockout she emerged with the win 78-73, 77-74 twice.

“I had fun in there tonight,” said Green. “I belong at the top with the best.”

Alexis Chaparro (2-0) knocked out Kevin Hill (1-2) with a five-punch combination at 2:01 of the second round in a middleweight fight.

Angel Barrientes (12-1) defeated Edwin Rodriguez (12-9-2) by majority decision after six rounds in a super bantamweight fight. The scores were 57-57, 60-54 twice for Barrientes who resides in Las Vegas.

Photo credit: Esther Lin / MVP Promotions

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