MONDAY was the 50th anniversary of the first Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier fight – and it reignited arguments over whether the giants of the past were better than today’s champions.
Would the Ali and Frazier who fought it out at New York’s Madison Square Garden have been too good for Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua?
Or would our modern heavyweights be too big, strong and athletic?
Of course it can never be resolved. Yet the debate keeps fans squabbling.
The thought of that fab four facing off does wonders for the imagination.
Just conjure up a picture of an Ali v Fury clash. It would be an over-the-top extravagance that would have he world salivating in anticipation.
The build-up banter between the two biggest motor-mouths ever would have provided more laughter than a comedians’ convention.
Ali, who could get under the skin of a snake, loved to play mind games with opponents.
He used to give them nicknames to belittle them. Sonny Liston was 'The Ugly Bear' and Floyd Patterson 'The Rabbit'.
Earnie Terrell was 'The Octopus', he dubbed George Foreman 'The Mummy' and Earnie Shavers 'The Acorn'.
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You wonder what he might have had in store for Fury. 'The Tongue'?
When it comes to deciding who wins, the merits and weaknesses of the fighters’ size must be taken into account.
Ali was 6ft 3in and weighed 15st 5lb while Frazier, barely 6ft, was just 14st 9lb before their Fight of the Century.
Fury – a towering 6ft 9in – was a massive 19st 7lb and 6ft 6in Joshua was a solid 16st 9lb before their last fights.
With a noticeable physical disadvantage, Ali would have been aware the Gypsy King’s skills were similar to his own. Though Ali had lost his pre-exile blistering speed, he was still much faster than Fury.
I firmly believe he would have won the tactical battle of the left jabs to secure a unanimous points decision.
Putting Frazier in with Fury would have been like getting a fishing trawler to ram a battleship.
Being 9in shorter, 5st lighter and with a 10in reach disparity he would not have got near Tyson, who would toy with him and run out an overwhelming points winner.
Frazier would have found Joshua more to his liking – Smokin’ Joe was a heavily muscled aggressive menace who never stopped ploughing forward throwing punches.
He had knockout power in both hands but his left hook was key.
Ali found to his cost Frazier was relentless – and that he could take three punches to land one.
Frazier beat Ali in New York thanks to a unanimous points decision after 15 rounds.
If Ali could not nullify him, Joshua wouldn’t have been able to.
He wouldn’t have coped with his fast bobbing and weaving style.
Although much smaller, I believe Frazier would have got inside AJ’s jab and hammered him to the body, forcing his hands down.
Once that happened in the middle rounds, Frazier would have used his dynamite left hook to knock him out.
Joshua would have struggled with Ali, too. A knockout would not be an option if Frazier couldn’t do it.
And there was no way Joshua would have outboxed him.
I feel the number of accurate punches Ali would have landed would have seen Joshua rescued by the ref late on.
So my controversial opinion is that, if my fantasy had been real, the score would be 3-1 to the old-timers over the present generation.
Just don’t tell Fury or Joshua.
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