Admitting Ali Lost Helped Me – With the passing of former undisputed heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali last week, the world is mourning and the boxing community and its writers are trying to come up with something new to say about him. To that I say forget about it because you can’t pull it off. I know I won’t even attempt it. Since Ali’s passing I’ve purchased every newspaper, magazine and special edition I could get my hands on to save for the rest of my life. However, I cannot read them yet and I’ll probably save them for a rainy or snowy Saturday afternoon in the future before I even attempt to open them. In addition to that I can’t watch his fights or interviews. My healing has been through conversations with a few close friends who know what Muhammad Ali meant to me and to them too.
For the time being, whatever I write about Ali will be centered on life lessons, at least through my eyes. No, the content isn’t all about me. Instead it references the influence he had on a pre-teen/teenage white kid growing up in Haddonfield New Jersey in the mid-sixties and seventies. But before I go into that let me get the obvious out of the way.
As a fighter I rank Muhammad Ali as the greatest heavyweight champion in boxing history. He was the alpha fighter during the greatest generation in heavyweight history. And he accomplished that in-spite of the fact that he didn’t box during his physical prime due to his 43 month exile for refusing to be inducted into the U.S. Army and partake in the Vietnam War. As a fighter Ali had more ways and weapons to win fights both physically and mentally than any other heavyweight who has yet lived. In addition to that a fighter couldn’t be –because it’s impossible to be — tougher than Ali was inside and out. I expect history to be very kind to Muhammad Ali when it comes to ranking him among the greatest of the greats.
As a 13 year old Lotierzo learns your mentor and icon doesn’t have to win:
Prior to the first Frazier vs. Ali bout, I was obsessed with the fight and who was going to win — so much so that my father forbid me to talk about it or mention Ali by name at the dinner table. This suited my mother fine because she thought Ali was too cocky and was rooting heavily for Frazier to beat him in the “Fight of The Century.” I tried to explain to her that Ali’s verbal shots at Frazier were just a way for him to promote the fight, but she wasn’t having it and was steadfast for “Smokin” Joe. At that time I hated Joe Frazier because I feared he was Ali’s equal or greater. As luck would have it, the kid who lived across the street from me, Guy Spicer, was a huge Frazier fan. Guy was a pretty quiet kid who was three years older than me. He feared Ali was going to win the fight and kept his rooting interest in check because he knew I would never let it go if Ali had won.
As you know Joe Frazier beat Ali by a 15-round unanimous decision in Super-fight I. Joe dropped Ali with a left hook that was heard around the world in the final round and that was an even bigger story than him winning the bout. I was fortunate in that my father took me, along with my uncle and cousin to see the fight live, for my birthday which was a month after the fight. Unfortunately my friend Guy didn’t get to see the fight. So about a month after it he and I ordered the super 8 mm film of the bout from an ad in the back of The Ring magazine. The copy was black and white and it was only selected highlights of eight different rounds of the fight. The film cost fifteen dollars and the agreement was we would split the cost and I would keep the film. However, it did me no good because Guy had the projector in his attic. So on Thursday nights I used to go over his house around nine o’clock and watch the film of the fight.
I could never get enough of watching it and tried to find a way to convince Guy as we watched together that Ali really did win and was screwed out of the decision because the judges viewed him as a draft-dodger. Whenever we watched the film of Frazier-Ali I would jump up and throw mock punches at the air emulating Ali hitting Frazier, in a childish attempt to convince him that Ali won and that I really believed it. Then one night while doing this I turned around and saw that Guy had fallen asleep and wasn’t paying attention to my theatrics.
Once I realized he was sleeping, I sat down and continued to watch the fight. As I was watching it I said to myself, Guy is asleep and will never know what you’re really thinking. Suppose you just landed from Mars and didn’t know who either fighter was – who would you think is really getting the better of it, the tall guy in the red trunks or the shorter guy in the green trunks? I said to myself, the shorter guy in the green trunks is getting the better of it. As we know Ali was the taller guy wearing red trunks.
At that moment I admitted to myself, and shortly afterward to anyone else who asked, that Joe Frazier legitimately beat Muhammad Ali on March 8th, 1971. Believe me, it was very hard to accept, but I just couldn’t continue lying to myself regarding the outcome. Even as a 13 year-old I knew too much about boxing and had to accept that Frazier really won and there wasn’t any politics or bias involved; he just flat out won. Yes it was close but there was simply no case to make favoring Ali. At that time I didn’t know they would fight two more times and Ali would win both fights. What I did know was Ali lost and I had to accept it. At that moment I promised myself that for the rest of my life I would never again lie to myself and try to hide from the truth.
Once I admitted Ali lost to Frazier the first time they fought I was liberated and vowed to be honest and objective regarding things subjective that involved my team or my buddy or personal favorite. Granted, none of us are completely without bias, but I can tell you that I’ve done the best I possibly could in trying to do so. It just took me to admit aloud that Muhammad Ali lost in order for me to do it. Admitting as a 13 year old Ali lost was really tough, but I figured if I could be honest about that, anything else would be a piece of cake. As you well know, Muhammad Ali was often times about learning and life lessons. Through Ali I learned to never lie to myself!
Admitting Ali Lost Helped Me
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com