View Full Version : Frazier goes to war part 2

06-03-2011, 05:39 AM


"As much I respected Joe Frazier, I wasn't about to die for him"
-Jack Cashill

The Fight
On March 8, 1971, my friends from grad school-Rick, Stanley, and Joan-and I drove from Purdue in y yellow VW bug to watch a large screen presentation of the first Ali-Frazier fight. The moment we walked into the theater, however, I understood what the other did not: five bucks or no, Gary was a mistake We were the only white people in the joint. Many times, before and since, I have found myself in venues with comparable ratios, but never one in which the Racial tension was so raw and palpable.

I was pulling for Joe Frazier

I was the only Frazier fan I knew at Purdue. The night before the fight, when we gathered at our habitual watering hole, my grad school buddies vied with each other to express their passion for Ali. Among their profession of fealty, one stuck with me, if only for its crudeness.
"I would stand on this table and piss in my pants if Ali were to walk in that door," said Ron, a fellow not usually known for his crudeness. Still if Ron's emotion was extreme, his attachment was the norm. I suspected that on the more excitable campuses-Bloomington and Madison and Boulder and Berkley- the Ali juju was surging even moire feverishly.

On the way to the restroom before the fight, several large gentlemen blocked my way and inquired rather bluntly into my choice of boxers.

"Who you for, mother****er?"

I didn't hesitate. "Ali," I said.

They let me pass. As much I respected Joe Frazier, I wasn't about to die for him.

In Gary and beyond, no fight had so racially polarized America since Jack Johnson squared off against Jim Jeffries in Reno sixty years earlier. This, I thought, is what Ali had wrought. He had crowd not so much pulling for him as against the imagined race traitor, Joe Frazier, and anyone, black or white, who dared cheer for him. Gary, that night , was a cauldron of hate, a harrowing. violate place to be. Still, the fight proved to be worth the risk. It was brutal and brilliant, as only great fights can be. Going into the fifteenth, it seemed to all of us too close to call.

"OK", I said to my friends between rounds, "We're out of here." They thought me daft and resisted. I explained patiently that if Ali lost a fight that the crowd expected him to win, there would be hell to pay, and we'd likely do the paying.

"But we're for Ali," Stanley protested.

"We had better get out of here before they take their anger out on us"

End Interlude

Frazier goes to war part 3


"Is Joe Frazier a white champion in black skin?"
-Byrant Gumbel