Objectively, Frazier loses a decision to a peak Ali. Yes, he'd be able to cut off the ring occasionally; yes, he'd be able to shake Ali with the left hook; and, yes, he'd win rounds. But Ali would've been that much sharper and quicker than he was in their first fight and would've hit Joe enough to win a unanimous decision. The only saving grace for Joe would be that Ali wasn't a great puncher.
Now somehow no thread has been created on this topic. Their peaks are virtually successive: Ali's '64-'67, Frazier '68-'71. Recenty a slight plurality voted for Joe as looking "most unbeatable", but he did not have Ali to fight until the very end of his peak, & Ali was still recovering from his layoff. One or two hear said Ali was best in '71, but that is almost certainly untrue. Any improvement in size & strength was more than offset by loss of speed & reflexes. Even a man who became more skilled & wise later, Foreman, was not as good in his comeback as at his peak because of reduced speed & reflexes.
In their Epic confrontations, I am tempted to rule it even at 1 to 1, since Ali got away with so much cheating, untoward & excessive holding & pulling on Frazier. That the referee allowed said cheating does not make the victory a test of true ability. What if Joe was allowed to get away with constant head butting or elbows? But he did not do this. These kinds of victories are Pyrrhic & not fully legitimate.
But Ali did not need to cheat when at his peak. Ali was a unique HW in being at least amongst if not the Greatest ever absent a great power & with technical flaws galore-his other skills, speed, & ring intuition compensated handsomely. Now those he beat at his peak were not the greatest ever or at their peaks then-but it is rare for a great HW to face all or sometimes even excellent competition.
Some say Frazier's smothering style & great left hook would always give Ali trouble. And really Norton won not less than 2 of 3 against Ali. Yet in their respective primes neither would be A) more likely to beat Ali than lose to him, or B) in a mythical match up of 10 fights, would lose I think not less than 7 of them. Maybe 8.
Ali was just too hard to catch up to then. His hand & foot speed would lead him to connect at least a little more, & mainly he would evade many attacks.
A slight underestimation of his height here. I just do not think that a great swarmer or foot dragging counter-puncher would be likely to win against this Ali. Or most anyone.
Joe Frazier would always give Muhammad Ali trouble. It doesn't matter how fast you run; Joe Frazier is gonna cut the ring, track you down and land that left hook. Muhammad Ali wasn't necessarily better in 1971 than during the late 60s but he did better things in the first Frazier 1. He punched harder, he tried the rope-a-dope, he got on his bicycle, he did everything in his arsenal and still lost the fight. If all things are fair, if Ali doesn't cheat and if the ref doesn't allow him to, Joe Frazier wins each time.
Ken Norton is another story. He only beat Ali because Ali was slow enough then for Ken to take advantage of the fact that Ali couldn't block a jab and was open to a counter jab.
It's still possible that Joe pulls off a decision against peak Ali. In fact, Ali's chin wasn't as good in the 60s as it was in the 70s so Joe's chance of a left hook knockout increases.
Muhammad was not invincible in his prime. He still had his faults and flaws and fighters of Frazier's style would always exploit them.
In my opinion Muhammad was still in his prime when he lost to Joe Frazier anyway. He was 29 years old and even though he was inactive for three years he kept himself in shape and sparred regularly with Jimmy Ellis and did plenty of roadwork.
If you put '64-67 Ali in the ring with '68-71 Frazier I think the fight plays out just as it did in March 1971, only Frazier had a better chance of knocking him out then. In fact, you could argue that Frazier would have knocked Ali out in the 11th round of their first fight if the ropes hadn't caught him. That (and the Henry Cooper knockdown) are the most hurt Muhammad ever was in the ring.
It's still possible that Joe pulls off a decision against peak Ali. In fact,
Ali's chin wasn't as good in the 60s as it was in the 70s so Joe's chance of
a left hook knockout increases.
Muhammad was not invincible in his prime. He still had his faults and flaws
and fighters of Frazier's style would always exploit them.
In my opinion Muhammad was still in his prime when he lost to Joe Frazier
anyway. He was 29 years old and even though he was inactive for three years
he kept himself in shape and sparred regularly with Jimmy Ellis and did
plenty of roadwork.
If you put '64-67 Ali in the ring with '68-71 Frazier I think the fight
plays out just as it did in March 1971, only Frazier had a better chance of
knocking him out then. In fact, you could argue that Frazier would have
knocked Ali out in the 11th round of their first fight if the ropes hadn't
caught him. That (and the Henry Cooper knockdown) are the most hurt Muhammad
ever was in the ring.
There is an interview with Ali. It's from 1969 (two years before Frazier).
Ali talks about how began training a little bit again, sparring with Jimmy Ellis, but he also
points out that he's physically NOTHING like he was three years ago (1966).
So maybe he runned a little bit, sparred a little bit (two years after barely training), but he wasn't obsessed with training like he was when he actually competed. And he would never be again. Matter-of-factly it is said that Ali despised training in the 1970ies. The times when he talked about the black movement, when he spoke out against war, those times were over. He simply enjoyed life at that time and was happy that he had his license back. The Rumble in the Jungle and Manilla were wars, but they were accompanied by Ali's sexual affaris prior to those fights also.
When you look at the footage, you can clearly see that Ali's speed (and I mean footspeed, reflexes) and stamina wasn't the same. Chuvalo fought both versions of Ali and that's exactly what he said. He said prime Ali could punch from distance fom a longer period of time. For a fighter who avoids inside fighting this was of significat importance.
Now what about Ali (1967) vs. Frazier (1971)? Ali won the first three rounds as far as remember, before Frazier took him apart methodically. If Ali would've been able to use his speed and stamina for a longer period of time, he could've A) punched from distance longer and B) avoid body shots that would hurt him. Thus winning more rounds than Frazier and winning the fight.
I believe that prime Ali could've won 8 rounds.
I think the fight would've happened in 1968 or 1969 anyway. Does anyone know at which place Frazier was at the rankings? I think he was close to beeing the no.1 contender in 1967.
As far as Ali's chin goes: Cooper hit him with a left hook in 1963. Rumor has it that Frazier also had a "pretty decent" left hook. A lot of people say that Cooper knocked out Ali, which is hard to believe when you look at the following round.
But anyway: If Cooper knocked him out, then he probably hit him on the chin. Frazier hit him on the jaw in 1971.
So how does this indicate that Ali's chin was worse in the 60ies than it was in the 70ies?
One more fight I want to point out is: Muhammad Ali vs. Oscar Bonavena. I know Oscar was tough as nails, but how was he able to give Ali such a hard fight? Why wasn't Sonny Liston able to do the same? In my opinion Liston was better than Bonavena. It's because we're talking about two completely different versions of Ali.
I want to add that if 1966 Ali fought 1971 Ali, I'd consider it a mismatch in
favor of guess-who.
It's not just the in-ring performance. Ali in the 1960ies even looked sharper in his interviews than he did in the 1970ies.
I wonder if 1960ies Ali would've even come up with stuff like the Uncle Tom thing.
I think you two are underestimating Joe Frazier's ability. It looks like I was wrong about Muhammad's training during his exile. I stand corrected.
However Joe would always cut the ring on Muhammad and get inside on him. Boxing is a game of inches and angles, and no one knew that better than Joe. Joe knows where you're going to be before you get there. He would trail behind in the early rounds but catch up to Muhammad by the mid-rounds. It's always going to be a close fight between those two.
But to the Frazier is still gonna do the same damage-advocates: it is precisely because boxing is a game of inches & angles that Ali would do better at his true peak! It is completely implausible that his great foot speed & reflexes would net him no more offensive gains, & more so he would be harder to hit & cut off as often. I cannot see how this can be denied.
Ali would certainly do better in his prime but it's always going to be a close one between these two dynamos. If they fought three times at their peaks, I see it going 2-1 for Ali. Frazier would win once, especially if they fought twice within a year and half or so.
You can hear a major comment at 24:21.
Cus points out (prime) Ali's ability to take one quick step in order to get out of trouble,
now he takes two steps. Is this a disadvantage when you fight someone like Frazier? It's one major
difference compared to prime Ali.
Did Ali ever regain his ability / athleticism? Absolutely NOT. It's seen in a fight he had in Zaire, Africa.
Prime Ali would've never rope-a-doped ANYBODY. I truly believe that prime Ali vs. Foreman would resemble Ali vs. Liston.
Stylewise Frazier is still a nightmare for him, because Joe had good legs and used tricky movements, weird angles. Frazier didn't have the fastest legs though, which might cause a different outcome when he fights Ali at his best. Ali gets out of trouble before Frazier can drag him into an inside battle.
Now my question @ Evolution: Liston was trying to cut off the ring on Ali. I don't say that he was a good cutter like Frazier, but Liston must've had experience on cutting off the ring with his kind of punching power. Now what is easier when it comes to hitting prime Ali: Hitting him with a good and LONG jab or dragging him on the inside? I'd say the first one. And Liston couldn't touch him with that jab.
What speaks in Fraziers favor is the Chuvalo fight from 1966: Chuvalo got inside a few times, Ali had to go to the hospital post-fight.