Tuesday, January 17, 2012
HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHAMP by ST
Today Muhammad Ali turns 70 years old. I'm sure that's hitting some folks like a ton of bricks. I don't recall the early part of his career as I was not even 5 years old when he won the title from Sonny Liston. By the time I was of age to be a fan he'd been stripped of his title. I do remember his 1st bout upon having his license restored. It was against Jerry Quarry in the summer of 1970 which he won easily. Later that year he stopped a guy named Oscar Bonevena. During his absence, Joe Frazier won the vacated title dropping Jimmy Ellis. The stage was set for the 1st "Fight of the Century" of my life. It would take place at Madison Square Garden on March 8th, 1971 between Smokin Joe & Ali. There was a media blitz that for it's time was unprecedented. TV ads with a split screen showing Frazier calling Ali "Clay". At Preakness Elementary School in Wayne, New Jersey sides were taken with me leading the Ali patrol and Ronny Pia taking charge for Joe's fans. We bet the money we had for allowance, cutting lawns, paper routes or perhaps it was ticketed for lunch. The funny thing was none of us was going to watch the fight. It wasn't like we could dial it up on demand! The next day I was devastated. My dad went to the Garden with a buddy of his. I listened to WINS 1010 AM which provided updates, not a blow by blow and it became apparent early that if Ali didn't kayo Frazier he'd lose. I recall my dad returning home with a program but I was a sad little guy. On today's show we'll share some memories of The Champ and perhaps that fight, the 2 others against Joe or of course the "Rumble in the Jungle" stunning win against George Foreman.