Smokin Joe Frazier and Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns make a rare Southern California visit to a nearby fight card on Thursday, April 17.
The Hall of Fame inductees will visit San Manuel Casino for the fight card that was scheduled to feature Aaron Pryor Jr. (9-0) against Devin Lopez (7-2) in a super middleweight bout. It will not be televised.
Former Olympic gold medal winner Frazier made greater fame fighting three epic battles against Muhammad Ali, twice for the heavyweight title. Detroit’s Hearns won world championships in the welterweight, junior middleweight, middleweight, and light heavyweight divisions. Both contributed to one of boxing’s greatest eras.
Angelo Dundee, the legendary trainer for Ali during his battles with Frazier, said, “these guys were a twosome like salt and pepper.”
The first Frazier-Ali battle took place in 1971 in Madison Square Garden in New York City.
It was simply called “The Fight” and millions of fans worldwide were anxious for exiled champion Ali to challenge the newcomer Frazier.
Celebrities arrived en masse and seemed just as anxious as normal boxing fans. In a tense battle, it was Frazier who won that first fight and climaxed the win with a knockdown from his vaunted left hook. Ali seemed a bit rusty. Both were hospitalized.
The rematch took place in 1974 and once again in Madison Square Garden. With no world championship at stake, Ali won the rematch after 12 rounds.
Perhaps the best of the three contests between the two bitter rivals was the fight in the Philippines dubbed “The Thrilla in Manila.” Many still consider that fight one of the greatest boxing matches of all time.
“There’s never been a more famous pairing than Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier,” Dundee said. “The two cemented their names together.”
Hearns also faced a Dundee fighter in his two legendary fights against Ray Leonard. The first rumble between Hearns and Leonard took place at Caesars Palace in 1981 in Las Vegas. That fight was called “The Showdown” and was “a natural” because both welterweights were undefeated.
“Hearns was as tall as a church steeple,” Dundee said of that fight that took place on Sept. 16, 1981. “His most dominant physical characteristic was his gangly arms.”
Though Hearns lost the first encounter to Leonard by 14th round technical knockout, they fought again in 1989 to a majority draw. Leonard was knocked down in the third and 11th rounds but managed to survive against Hearns.
“Thomas was an incredible opponent,” said Leonard to the Riverside Press-Enterprise three years ago. “He was fast with these long arms and he could hit.”
Amazingly Hearns, 49, fought two years ago and won by knockout. He still gives rumblings of returning to the ring. His son Ronald Hearns is an undefeated super middleweight.
In the main event Pryor Jr. meets Lopez in a super middleweight bout. Pryor is the youngest son of the great former junior welterweight champion Pryor. Also on the fight card will be Jesus Rodriguez matched against Robert Frankel. In a female welterweight bout Demi Nguyen meets Dakota Stone.
For tickets and information (800) 359-2464.
Margarito Gets Cotto
Antonio Margarito’s relentless and brutal assault to rip the IBF welterweight title from Kermit Cintron, now leads him into a direct path with WBA welterweight titleholder Miguel Cotto.
It’s going to be Mexico’s best versus Puerto Rico’s best and probably in July, says Top Rank’s Bob Arum.
Cotto was dominating in his win over Southern California fighter Alfonso Gomez in their welterweight fight. Gomez, who had never been knocked down before, was floored three times in six rounds before the ringside doctor stopped it.
Finally Margarito and Cotto are going to meet. They should have fought a year ago but the Tijuana fighter refused to duck the number one contender Paul Williams. Margarito subsequently lost the WBO title to Williams when they met last summer. Cotto instead beat Zab Judah in impressive fashion, and then won a close encounter with Pomona’s Sugar Shane Mosley.
Four of the best light heavyweights not named Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe met each other last Saturday and whittled down the list of top 175-pounders by two.
WBC titleholder Chad Dawson emerged the winner over former champion Glen Johnson in a terse back and forth battle that proved action packed for all 12 rounds.
In the other bout Antonio Tarver captured the IBF title with a steady performance over England’s Clinton Woods. Though not as energetic as Dawson and Johnson, the former star of the film Rocky proved he knows how to win a title match.
Now Tarver will face Dawson if the contracts can be mutually agreed on.
The winner of that match can possibly meet the winner of Hopkins and Calzaghe, said promoter Gary Shaw who staged the light heavyweight tournament last weekend.
“I’ll allow Hopkins or Calzaghe to get in the mix,” said Shaw by telephone. “That will put three winners in the next month. It's pretty exciting stuff.”
Fights on television
Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., Kevin Johnson (18-0-1) vs. Terry Smith (30-4-1).
Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Roberto Garcia (24-2) vs. Freddy Hernandez (22-1).
Sat. ESPN Classic, 3 p.m., O’Neil Bell (26-2) vs. Tomasz Adamek (33-1).
Sat. HBO, 6:45 p.m., Bernard Hopkins (48-4-1) vs. Joe Calzaghe (44-0).