Joe Frazier, Champion and Competitor

Joe Frazier
Bettmann / Corbis

On the Rise
Frazier attained the title of heavyweight champion in 1970, though he didn't have to face Muhammad Ali, who had been banned from boxing in 1967 after refusing to serve in the Vietnam War. After Ali's return to boxing, the two met in a bout on March 8, 1971, a night dubbed the Fight of the Century. The fanfare surrounding the event was unprecedented; Burt Bacharach, Dustin Hoffman and other celebrities sat ringside, and Frank Sinatra famously photographed the match for LIFE magazine. In the 15th round, Frazier connected with a left hook that sent Ali to the mat, retaining his heavyweight title. In this photograph, Ali falls to the ground during the Fight of the Century.

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