VIDEO : Ferdie Pacheco recalls Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier II – 42 years later
Dr. Ferdie Pacheco (“The Fight Doctor”) is the only surviving member from either corner team and, despite acknowledging that Ali vs. Frazier II is the weaker war, his overall impression is that the non-title bout still managed to bring out the best in two glorious gladiators. “Heavyweight boxing was in a lull period at that time,” said Pacheco, who was Ali’s personal physician for 15 years. “There were no compelling fights for Ali at that point and Frazier had suffered an astounding defeat at the hands of George Foreman, who bounced him off the canvas like a basketball. “What Ali needed was an easy fight and suddenly Joe Frazier looked like an easy fight. The money was big but a lot of fans felt they were being overcharged for a questionable non-title bout.” The public, and Ali, had underestimated the Philadelphia warhorse. “Smokin” Joe had looked listless against British contender Joe Bugner, in July 1973, but there was every reason to believe that his guns would be fully reloaded for the opportunity to defeat “The Greatest” for a second time.
“A feeble attempt to pump up this rematch just fell flat,” said Pacheco. “Suddenly you couldn’t sell Joe Frazier as a viable opponent and inside the Ali camp we fell into the same stupor. Try not to hurt Joe was the phrase on everyone's lips, poor old broken down Joe. “Essentially Ali was getting ready to beat the s__t out of a damaged Joe Frazier.” Days prior to the contest both fighters appeared on ABC television to review their first fight, along with the irreplaceable Howard Cosell. All seemed to be going well until Ali labeled Frazier “ignorant,” a remark which was the reddest of rags to the angriest of bulls. An unrehearsed brawl ensued and, although neither man was hurt, the New York State Athletic Commission fined Ali and Frazier for bringing the sport into disrepute.