Ali taunting Frazier.

It was 40 years ago today when the undefeated legends Muhammad Ali (31-0, 25 KOs) and Joe Frazier (26-0, 23 KOs) went the distance at Madison Square Garden in NYC for what was coined ‘The Fight Of The Century’. It was a tumultuous time for America. The Vietnam War was front and center, and Ali had had his championship belt stripped and was banned from fighting for 3 and a half years because he refused to fight in the War. He was in his prime and couldn’t even keep his title.

Ali and Frazier were both notoriously outspoken against any opponents. They liked to test the limits and push buttons. Here’s two classic quotes from the infamous LIFE article (which you can read here):

“Well, the press don’t know I’ve been slipping out every morning for three years and doing my road work… the press don’t know that every city I visit has a gym and I sneak down there and work out. Hah! Joe Frazier’s going round saying he’s the heavyweight tramp, I mean champ. After the first round with him is over, the people will rise from their seats and cry, ‘Ali tricked us! He’s still the greatest. Undoubtedly, undisputedly, he is the king!’”—Ali

“He’s no good. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a phony. He don’t really stand for all those things he talks about.”—Frazier

The fight went the full 15 rounds and a unanimous victory was given to Frazier. Today, fights like these are nowhere to be found. The obsession with UFC and MMA has nearly phased out boxing, a true sport, while we put gladiators in a cage to see who can draw the most blood. Nothing like these momentous events exist anymore and it’s quite sad—these fights were the true test of skills and endurance while they pounded the snot out of each other.