Weekly Sports Replay VIII: Frazier passes away, leaves tall standing legacy

By Shawn Annarelli

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier stood atop the tallest mountain for one unhinged year waiting for a chance to knock the other off, but they couldn’t go toe to toe.

The two sluggers were undefeated heavyweight champions. Muhammad Ali was the defective champion who was not allowed to fight, because he had rejected induction into the draft in 1966 for religious reasons. By June 27, 1967 Ali was stripped of his titles and banned from boxing.

Despite being undefeated, Ali was no longer the heavyweight champion, and Frazier would soon steal boxing’s spotlight from him.

Frazier began his boxing career two years before Ali was banned from the ring. Frazier steadily rose in the ranks of boxing and knocked out nearly every man he laid his hands. Eventually he met Jimmy Ellis, who had won the heavyweight title following Ali’s dismissal, for the championship Ali never lost. Frazier defeated Ellis by a 15-round decision on Feb. 2, 1970.

At the same time that Frazier became heavyweight champion, states around the nation began to consider allowing Ali back into boxing. The state of Georgia reinstated Ali, and he knocked out Jerry Quarry on Oct. 26, 1970. Less than two months later, on Dec. 7, Ali knocked out Oscar Bonavena in New York City. Meanwhile, Frazier had knocked out Bob Foster three weeks earlier for his first and only title defense before the first ever undefeated defective champion versus de-facto champion between Ali and Frazier on March 8, 1971 in Madison Square Garden, the mecca of boxing.

The two boxers faced off in a match eloquently dubbed “The Fight.” Public opinion was split on whom the real champion was entering the bout, because Ali had never lost a match in his career. Frazier supporters, however, claimed that Frazier won his title legally, so he was the champ.

The two fighters lived up to their championship billing and went 15 long rounds before a Frazier left hook knocked down Ali 20 seconds into the fifteenth round. At the end of the bout Ali took two tired swings at Frazier, who ducked the hooks. The round was dominated by Frazier, who looked as if he could go another 15 rounds.

As soon as the bell rang, Frazier confidently jumped in the air with his right first raised, and Ali solemnly dropped his head in his corner as trainers scurried to his aid. The two champions knew one had just outfought the other, and there was a question as to who the undisputed champion would be.

Frazier won the fight by unanimous decision.

Still, the two boxers only scratched the surface of their rivalry that night. They fought each other twice more, and Ali won the next two bouts to stand atop the mountain alone.

40 years later, Frazier lost another fight, this one to pancreatic cancer. He passed away on Monday night at the age of 67.

Florida Panthers off to best start in 15 years

Most teams that win only half of their games through 14 games have seen brighter days in recent seasons, but for the NHL’s Florida Panthers such a start is the team’s best first 14 games since the 1996 season when they went on to lose in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Colorado Avalanche.

The Panthers have not reached the playoffs since 2000, the longest current postseason drought in the NHL.

The new look Panthers are led by newcomers Kris Versteeg and Brian Campbell, who lead the team in goals and assists respectively. Tomas Fleischmann and Tomas Kopecky have also contributed to the team’s newfound marginal success early this season. Starting goalie Jose Theodore is also a new face this season for Florida.

With these five new additions, the Panthers may stand a chance to be relevant for the first time in a decade.

No Peyton, Big Problem

In contrast to the NHL’s Florida Panthers, the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts have not missed the playoffs since 2002, the longest such streak in the NFL.

However, the one constant as the Colts have racked postseason after postseason is future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. No matter how bad the defense was, the Colts’ offense ran like a well-oiled machine. That is until a neck injury to Manning threw a huge wrench into the works.

Manning had neck surgery on May 23 to repair a bulging disk. On Sept. 8, Manning had another surgery that Colts owner Jim Irsay speculated would keep the quarterback out of action for the entire season. However, Manning has repeatedly said he will play in 2011 if he is cleared for action.

Only, Manning won’t be able to ride in on a white horse as he has done so many times before to lift the Colts. The team is 0-9 and six games back in the AFC South Division race and six games back in the Wild Card race.

Indianapolis’ playoff possibilities are all but sidelined along with Manning.

Sweet Play of the Week

Surfer Garrett McNamara may have rode a 90-foot wave off the coast of Portugal on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day and following the gigantic wave the water reached approximately 60-feet high, and then McNamara’s monster surf came unexpectedly. The video has been sent out to verify the wave’s height.

The current record is held by Mark Parson who rode a 70-foot wave in 2008.

Sour Play of the Week

You’re driving at 200 mph, and another driver speeding just as fast sideswipes you in an attempt to get pass you.

What do you do?

I bet you didn’t return the favor like Kyle Busch did to Ron Hornaday on Friday.

Moments prior to the retaliation Busch and Hornaday jockeyed for second place in one of NACAR’s last races of the season. Hornaday inadvertently nipped Busch’s race car, which caused the two to go high and wide into the wall for a brief meeting with the wall. Hornaday’s unintentional sideswipe was just old-fashioned, hard racing.

Busch’s retaliation intentionally put both drivers in danger, Hornaday’s car slammed into the wall in an eerily similar manner that ended Dave Earnhardt’s life over a decade ago. Busch was fined $50,000 and put on probation for the rest of 2011.

Did You Know?

  • The Steelers have the worst turnover ratio in the NFL at negative 11. The team has turned the ball over 15 times and has only forced 4 turnovers.
  • NBA union attorney Jeffrey Kessler said the NBA owners are treating players like plantation workers on Monday.
  •  Jorge Posada has said he will not return to the Yankees in 2012.
  • Motocross rider Jim McNeil crashed and passed away during a practice run on Sunday morning. The 32-year old had competed since he was seven years old.
  • According to the Denver Post, Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos has been kidnapped from his Venezuelan home on Wednesday night.
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