On March 8, 1971, the first boxing match between champion Joe Frazier (26-0, 23 KOs) and challenger Muhammad Ali (31-0, 25 KOs) was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. It was properly promoted as "The Fight of the Century," displaying a circus-like atmosphere, with scores of policemen to control the crowd, outrageously dressed fans, and countless celebrities.

In a classic 15-round battle, Joe Frazier broke the wings of the butterfly and smashed the stinger of the bee winning a unanimous decision over Muhammad Ali. Defying an anonymous "lose or else" death threat, Frazier settled the controversy over the world heavyweight championship by handing Ali his first defeat with a savage attack that culminated in a thudding knockdown of the deposed titleholder from a hammerlike left hook in the final round.