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It Was 40 Years Ago Today Ali Won That Thrilla Over Frazier in Manila

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On March 8, 1971 the most anticipated sporting event in history took place. It was titled “The Fight of The Century,” between heavyweight champion “Smokin” Joe Frazier 26-0 (23) and former undisputed champ Muhammad Ali 31-0 (26).

What made the fight so compelling was the style clash between Joe and Muhammad. They were polar opposites outside of the ring regarding their personalities. In the ring, Frazier was the ultimate catch ‘n’ kill swarmer who forced the fight from bell-to-bell, opposed to Ali, who was a beautiful boxer who picked his spots sliding and gliding about the ring throwing fast and fluid accurate combinations. One’s strength was the others’ weakness and the others’ weakness was the others’ strength.

When they fought the first time, Frazier was better prepared mentally, physically and stylistically to confront Ali… more-so than any other opponent ever was to face their career nemesis and rival in history.

Frazier understood that Ali was more effective backing up and fighting when he choose to do so than he was when he was forced to back up. Ali was not ready for Frazier stylistically and had no concept how hard Frazier was to hit and keep off. Another problem Ali had was the fact that he was coming off an almost four year layoff and had only fought twice before meeting Frazier. On the other hand Joe was at his peak and always knew his worth and moment of truth would come against Ali.

Frazier won the first fight with Ali due to his unrelenting pressure and forcing Ali to fight off the ropes and out of the ring corners. Ali had his moments of brilliance during the first 10 rounds of the bout, but it was all Frazier from the 11th round on with Ali only winning round 14. Frazier sealed the deal when he dropped Muhammad with a massive left-hook that was heard around the world in the 15th round. Ali got up from the grave at the count of four but lost a unanimous decision.

A little more than two and a half years later, Ali and Frazier met again in another ‘brawler versus boxer’ confrontation when neither was champ. In between the first and second fights Ali fought 13 times as opposed to Frazier, who only fought four times. This time Ali was the fresher fighter with the more lively legs and spring. Frazier tried to force the action but Ali used his legs to dance out of range and pepper Joe from long range. Joe had his moments during the middle rounds, but Ali built a big lead and then rallied down the stretch to seal the unanimous decision in his favor.

And then there’s the third meeting between them, known as “the Thrilla In Manila.” In between the second and third bouts Ali had four fights and Frazier had two. Ali was now the undisputed champ and Frazier was still a top contender behind former champ George Foreman. The thinking by most sophisticated observers before the third meeting was this: Ali would breeze through the bout and Frazier, who was thought to be on the decline, would be target practice for Muhammad’s sharp shooting. And for two and a half, perhaps three rounds, they were right.

The Thrilla In Manila: Muhammad Ali 48-2 (35) vs. Joe Frazier 32-2 (27)

Ali came out fast and tried to jump on Frazier, who was a notorious slow starter. His thoughts were to get rid of Frazier early and not have to suffer through another long and physically taxing fight. However, Ali lacked the needed tools to punctuate the quick execution. Yes, he rocked Joe real good during the first two rounds and had him on his heels. In the third Ali landed some clean flurries, but Joe was starting to smoke and started to crash some solid left hooks and right hands to the champ’s body.

Starting in the fourth round Ali went to the ropes and tried to time Frazier on the way in. He was successful, but he didn’t disrupt Joe’s aggression and by the end of the round Frazier was finding his rhythm. During the middle rounds Ali fought off the ropes almost as if he were willing to let Frazier have his body and would look to score when he felt Frazier was reloading. Only in the seventh round did Ali attempt to use his legs and circle to the left out of Frazier’s range. And even at that Frazier was catching him because it was more natural for Joe to move forward quicker than a tiring Ali could move backwards.

By the eighth round it was apparent that it was taking too much out of Ali trying to avoid Frazier – so he went to the ropes and looked to pick his spots. The only problem was, Frazier was working him over real good to the head and body with thunderous left hooks and right hands. Actually, Ali was tired and content to lie against the ropes like he did against George Foreman a year earlier and endure the body punishment. As the rounds went on, Ali would try to strike quick early in the round but it didn’t take long for Frazier to force him to the ropes or one of the ring corners and start to work him over to the body first and then to the head. Ali’s legs had no spring and he couldn’t get away from Frazier and it looked as if Ali wasn’t going to get a second wind. If Joe could maintain his aggression without taking too many punches on the way in, he’d soon be champ again.

Starting in the 12th round, Ali began to catch Frazier with straight one-twos while waiting for him on the ropes. By this time in the fight Ali was too spent to even attempt to use his legs and fight Joe from long range. So he fought him flat-footed with his back mostly against the ropes. His saving grace turned out to be his seven inch reach advantage along with his straight punches landing on Frazier before Joe could close the distance and force Muhammad to trade hooks and uppercuts on the inside. Early in the 13th Ali knocked Frazier’s mouthpiece out as he burrowed forward. However, Joe kept forcing Muhammad to the ropes, but now Ali’s better condition and quick hands were winning him the exchanges on the inside. Early in the 14th Frazier appeared to be recovered, but he just couldn’t get out of the way of Ali’s straight lefts and rights. His face was badly swollen and he was getting hit with punches he couldn’t see.

Moments before the bell to start the 15th round, Frazier’s trainer Eddie Futch told Joe it was over and he was stopping the fight because he was getting hit with too many punches.

After the fight Frazier said, “Lawdy, lawdy, he’s a great and mighty champion. I hit him with punches that would bring down the walls of a city.” And Ali said the fight was the, “Closest thing to dying that I know of.”

When you take into account the perception of Ali and Frazier as fighters, their third fight goes against the grain. The first time they fought, the brawler wouldn’t let the boxer box, and in the rematch, the boxer boxed and didn’t allow the brawler to force the fight effectively. Well, the third bout between them was a brawl. Ali’s boxing ability was a long forgotten thought after the third round. During the “Thrilla In Manila” Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier fought it out toe-to-toe. And a case could be made that for the only time of the three times they met, it was Ali who actually landed the harder punches during the bout.

The “Thrilla In Manila was three fights in one. Ali owned the early going, Frazier owned the middle rounds up through the 11th and then Ali came on in the 12th, 13th and 14th. But he didn’t do it boxing! No, Joe forced him to fight and brawl in Manila. And once again Ali silenced his critics by out-brawling one of the greatest brawlers in heavyweight history.

Joe Frazier won the biggest fight between he and Ali, but Ali won the biggest brawl between them. Sadly, neither was ever great again and both should’ve retired forever after Manila. But tellingly, the legacy of both men is immense and I will propose, will always endure. And neither man in ensuing decades stated that they regretted their participation in this and other classic tussles. True warriors, with legacies undeniable.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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David Avanesyan: “My Aggressive Style is Going to Give Crawford Problems”

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With determination and total confidence in his abilities, Russian David Avanesyan rejects the idea that he will be the “ugly duckling” when he faces Terence Crawford who will be defending his WBO welterweight title for the sixth time this December 10th.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for my family and me, one I will not take for granted,” Avanesyan said. “I know going in that I’m a huge underdog and no one is giving me a chance, but let me tell you, I’m going to surprise everyone watching. I’ve had enough time to prepare, so I’ll be ready for the southpaw.”

Thirty-four-year-old Avanesyan (29-3-1, 17 KOs) was born in Russia but resides in England, where he has been preparing for the momentous matchup against Crawford.

European champion in the welterweight division, Avanesyan has won six straight, all within the distance; the most recent being in the first round against Finnish Oskari Metz (16-1, 6 KOs) in London.

Ranked sixth by the WBO and seventh by the IBF, Avanesyan says he has learned many tricks over the years and is now a completely different and more mature boxer.

“Coming from the amateur ranks, I had to learn how to sit on my punches correctly, which can take a lifetime for some fighters. The bad habits that plagued me early in my career are now fixed. Today I’m a completely different fighter in the ring, and my last six fights have shown my growth when it comes to my power punching. I believe my aggressive style is going to give Crawford problems,” said Avanesyan.

Prior to his six-fight winning streak, Avanesyan was knocked out in the eighth round by California-based Lithuanian Egidijus Kavaliauskas in the city of Reno, Nevada where they fought for the NABF belt.

Avanesyan is not misguided as he assesses the enormous task ahead. “There’s a reason Terence Crawford is considered the best fighter in boxing, his skill set is amazing, and he knows how to win,” stated Avanesyan. “I know my hands are full, but I’m going to do everything I can to become a world champion. I need to stick to the game plan we have in place, and if adjustments need to be made during the fight, I will have to make them.”

Although Avanesyan logically praises Crawford’s career, the match-up has created a sea of ​​criticism for the undefeated Crawford (38-0, 29 KOs), who is ranked among the best pound for pound fighters. The vast majority of fans wanted to see him face his countryman, the undefeated Errol Spence Jr (28-0, 22 KOs), the current title holder of the other three most prestigious belts: the WBC, WBA and IBF.

But the thirty-five-year-old Crawford from Omaha, Nebraska says that regardless of his results and whatever adversary he faces, he will continue to be blamed by the people who just don’t like him.

“Before, I always cared a lot about what the fans say and say about me,” stated Crawford. “But the older I got, the more I came to the fact that you can’t please everyone. No matter what you do, no matter who you beat and how many fights you won, how many divisions you conquered, there will still be those who will not love you for their own reasons. It seems to me that all the great fighters went through this. All the greats who were before me, and all those who will be after me, it will be the same with everyone.”

In his brilliant professional career, Crawford has been world champion in three divisions: lightweight, super lightweight and welterweight.

Six years after his professional boxing debut, Crawford claimed the WBO 135-pound world title by unanimously defeating host Ricky Burns in Glasgow, Scotland.

Thirteen months later, Crawford added the vacant WBO 140-pound title by anesthetizing Thomas Dulorme in the sixth round. Dulorme could not endure Crawford’s powerful punch and visited the canvas three times in the fateful sixth round.

Crawford became the undisputed king of the super lightweight division in August 2017, when he chloroformed Namibian Julius Indongo in Lincoln, Nebraska. The African lost the WBA and IBF belts, while Crawford retained the WBC and WBO belts.

In June 2018, Crawford conquered the WBO welterweight belt after putting Australian Jeff Horn (20-3-1, 13 KOs) to sleep in the ninth round at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas.

Thanks to his blazing hand speed, ring savvy, counterpunching skills, as well as his ability to switch from right guard to left guard and back again, Crawford is considered a heavy favorite to take down Avanesyan.

*Note: As of December 2nd:  Crawford  -1600 / Avanesyan  +780

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish.

Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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Juan Francisco Estrada Holds Off ‘Chocolatito’ Again

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Once again Juan Francisco Estrada jumped out in front early and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez needed time to crank up the engine, but fell too far behind as the Mexican fighter won the vacant WBC flyweight world title on Saturday.

Estrada wins the trilogy 10 years in the making.

Once again Estrada (44-3, 28 KOs) surged ahead early in the fight against Nicaragua’s Gonzalez (51-4, 41 KOs) and then navigated toward another win, this time at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona on the Matchroom Boxing card.

“We had excellent preparation at high altitude and I think we left the fight clear on who won the fight this time,” said Estrada about the third encounter.

Ten years ago, the trilogy began in Los Angeles as “Chocolatito” confronted an unknown fighter at the time in Estrada. The two surprised the crowd who expected Gonzalez to destroy yet another Mexican fighter. But it did not happen that night though Chocolatito proved too experienced and battered his way to victory in a light flyweight world title clash.

Then, in March 2021, Estrada finally fought Gonzalez in a rematch and the two engaged in a closely-fought super flyweight world title match. This time Estrada proved slightly better according to the judges and won by split decision in Dallas, Texas.

Few knew what to expect in a third encounter.

At first the coronavirus stalled plans for the trifecta so Chocolatito fought a replacement and dominated. Meanwhile Estrada fought another Mexican and did not look good.

On Saturday, a decade after their first encounter, Estrada looked fluid and accurate in dominating the first six rounds of the fight. Though he did not hurt Gonzalez, he was repeatedly scoring at will.

Gonzalez woke up around the seventh round.

Suddenly the Nicaraguan who was once considered the best fighter Pound for Pound showed up and fired rapid combinations. The spring in his legs suddenly appeared and the energy level was cranked up high after nearly being on idle.

Estrada suddenly found himself against the ropes forced to slip and slide away from Gonzalez’s powerful combination punches. A real fight suddenly erupted during the final six rounds.

“All fights are different and all fights are difficult and this was the most difficult one,” said Gonzalez, a four-division world champion.

Though neither fighter was ever visibly hurt, Gonzalez’s pressure kept Estrada expending too much energy trying to evade the Nicaraguan’s traps during the final six rounds.

“He always goes 100 miles an hour,” said Estrada of his nemesis.

Estrada used uppercuts and slide steps to maneuver against Gonzalez’s hard charges. It seemed to work and allowed the Mexican fighter more room and time to apply counter-measures.

In the final round, those maneuvers allowed Estrada to connect with a hard punch to the body that forced Chocolatito to cover up. It also allowed Estrada to unravel a combination that gave him the last round if needed. After 12 rounds one judge scored it 114-114, while two others saw it 116-112, 115-113 for Estrada who becomes the new WBC super flyweight world titlist.

“We did an excellent fight and I got the victory,” said Estrada. “I’ve always said Chocolatito is a future Hall of Famer.”

Gonzalez was gracious in defeat.

“What is important is we gave that good fight to the fans and we came out in good health,” Gonzalez said.

There is even talk of a fourth fight.

“As long as they pay well, of course,” said Gonzalez.

Other Fights

Julio Cesar Martinez (19-2, 14 KOs) retained the WBC flyweight world title by majority decision over Spain’s Samuel Carmona (8-1) in a rather dull affair. Mexico’s Martinez chased Carmon all 12 rounds in a fight that saw Carmona slap and run, then hold.

No knockdowns were scored and Martinez won 114-114, 117-111, 116-112.

Diego Pacheco (17-0, 14 KOs) ran over Mexico’s Adrian Luna (24-9-2) with three knockdowns in winning by stoppage in the second round of the super middleweight fight. It was no surprise.

The 21-year-old from South Central L.A. once again showed that despite his youth his power seems to be continually increasing as evident in the knockout win.

Now training with Team David Benavidez, the young super middleweight looked sharp, especially with the lead overhand right that floored Luna in the second round. Luna was floored two more times and the fight was wisely stopped by his own corner.

“You put in the hard work then you come in here and shine,” said Pacheco. “I joined team Benavidez this year.”

Nicaragua’s former world titlist Cristofer Rosales (35-6, 21 KOs) won a dog fight over Mexico’s Joselito Velasquez (15-1-1, 10 KOs) by unanimous decision after 10 rounds in a flyweight clash.

It was a back-and-forth struggle that saw the taller Rosales take over in the second half of the fight and win by simply out-punching Velasquez and handing the Mexican his first loss as a professional by scores 97-93 three times.

Photo credit: Milena Pizano

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Tyson Fury TKOs Derek Chisora in Round 10

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It was a chilly night in London but that didn’t deter a near-capacity crowd from turning out at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to witness the third rumble between Tyson Fury and Derek Chisora. The Gypsy King was heavily favored to retain his WBC and lineal heavyweight title and performed as expected. Indeed, this fight closely resembled their second encounter back in 2014.

In that bout, Chisora absorbed a terrific amount of punishment before his corner pulled him out at the conclusion of the 10th round. Tonight’s fight ended nine seconds earlier at the 2:51 mark of round 10 and it was the referee who terminated the match.

When is a heavyweight not a heavyweight? When the man in the opposite corner is substantially bigger. With an 8-inch height advantage and a 15-inch reach advantage, the six-foot-nine Fury was simply too big a mountain to climb for the brave Derek Chisora, a fighter who changed his nickname in mid-career, transitioning from “Dell Boy” to “War.”

Fury dominated round two, especially the last minute, a round in which he was credited with landing 18 power punches. The writing was on the wall for Chisora who ate a lot of thudding uppercuts in the ensuing rounds and ended the contest with a badly swollen right eye and a bloody mouth. With the victory, Fury improved his ledger to 32-0-1 with his 24th win inside the distance. The Zimbabwe-born Chisora falls to 33-13.

Oleksandr Usyk and Joe Joyce were in attendance and the Gypsy King addressed both before he left the ring. Calling Usyk “The Rabbit,” he indicated that he would fight Usyk next in a true unification fight, but said if there were a snag in negotiations he wouldn’t mind trading blows with the Juggernaut, Joe Joyce, who wore down and stopped former heavyweight title-holder Joseph Parker, a former Fury sparring partner, in his most recent engagement. However, Fury also revealed that he had an issue with his right elbow that may require surgery.

Co-Feature

In a heavyweight match that lasted only three rounds but was chock-full of action, Daniel Dubois overcame three knockdowns to retain his secondary WBA heavyweight title he won at the expense Trevor Bryan with a third-round stoppage of upset-minded Kevin Lerena.

In the opening stanza, Johannesburg’s Lerena, landed an overhand left on the top of Dubois’s head that put the Englishman on the canvas and left him all at sea. He went down twice more before the round was over, the first time of his own volition when he took a knee (reminiscent of his match with Joe Joyce) and the second from a glancing blow.

Dubois, whose legs are spindly for a man of his poundage, had trouble regaining his equilibrium in round two, but Lerena didn’t press his advantage. In the next frame, a short right from Dubois penetrated Lerena’s guard and down went the South African. Smelling blood, Dubois knocked him down again and was pummeling him against the ropes when the referee interceded just as it appeared that Lerena would be saved by the bell.

It was the fourth straight win for Dubois (19-1, 18 KOs) since his mishap versus Joyce. Lerena, who entered the bout on a 17-fight winning streak, lost for the second time in 30 fights.

Also

In a ho-hum affair, Denis Berinchyk, a 24-year-old Ukrainian, captured the European lightweight title and remained undefeated with a unanimous decision over French-Senagalese warhorse Ivan Mendy. Berinchyk (17-0, 9 KOs) was making his first appearance in London since winning a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics where he was a teammate of Oleksandr Usyk and Vasiliy Lomachenko.

The judges had it 117-112 and 116-112 twice for the Ukrainian. The 37-year-old Mendy, who has answered the bell for 380 rounds, falls to 47-6-1.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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