Segments in this Video

Muhammad Ali's Comeback (03:08)


In 1970, Ali fought Oscar Bonavena early into his return to boxing. He had been barred from boxing, and still faced five years in jail, over his refusal to enter the army. Boxer experts noticed his style was different.

Ali's Views in 1970 (03:25)

By 1970, most Americans, especially black Americans, no longer supported the Vietnam War. Ali still supported the Nation of Islam, but it was less in the public eye and its ideas seemed less radical. Ali's popularity and support grew.

Ali and Joe Frazier (04:52)

Ali's rivalry with Joe Frazier grew and they prepared to fight for the heavyweight title. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Ali's case, his last chance to avoid prison. His training sessions were open to the public and he spent more time entraining than training.

Joe Frazier (05:30)

Ali did not take Frazier seriously, who had a strong left hook—one of Ali's weaknesses. Frazier grew up poor in South Carolina, wanting to box since he was a child. He began training as a teenager in Philadelphia and won the heavyweight title during Ali's exile.

Ali-Frazier Rivalry (08:00)

The two boxers met in 1967 and Ali said he would fight him in two years, when Frazier would be ready. Ali asked him to fight during his exile, but Frazier refused. Frazier trained hard for the fight with Ali, who launched cruel attacks at him in the press.

Excitement for the Fight (04:10)

Hundreds of reporters swarmed Madison Square Garden days before the fight to witness Ali's physicals. Ticket prices were triple that of a normal fight. Closed circuit television would broadcast to nearly 300 million people.

Ali vs. Frazier (06:42)

The fight occurred on March 8, 1971, with dozens of celebrities in the audience. Ali won the first two rounds, but altered his style, giving Frazier an advantage.

Fight of the Century (07:00)

Ali predicted he would beat Frazier in six rounds, but the fight continued. In the final round, Frazier face was badly swollen, and Ali needed a knockout to win. Frazier landed a left hook and won the title.

Ali's Loss to Frazier (03:36)

The fight with Frazier was Ali's first professional loss. It made Ali more relatable, and people understood the sacrifice he made by being gone for three years. Frazier spent 10 days in the hospital after the fight.

Ali's Downtime (05:12)

Ali returned home to his wife and children. Ali told the press he was resting and would retire after a rematch with Frazier. Ali struggled financially because of large spending and generosity.

Ali and the Supreme Court (07:41)

In 1971, Ali's case of conscientious objection went before the Supreme Court. Ali's lawyers argued that his reasons were religious, not racial or political. The vote was split 4-4, but the court overturned Ali's conviction because of an error in a lower court.

Ali and Frazier in 1971 (04:59)

Ali started talking about a rematch with Frazier, who had stepped back from boxing to focus on his music career. Free of restrictions, Ali fought nine times in 15 months as he waited. He constantly traveled and often cheated on his wife Belinda.

Ali's Training Camp (03:05)

Ali won all his fights, but sportswriters noticed he was slower and taking more punches. To defend his title, Frazier fought against George Foreman, who was undefeated and only 23. In 1972, Ali started his own residential boxing training camp.

New Competitors (09:17)

Young boxer Larry Homes began training with Ali at his camp. Frazier lost to Foreman in the second round and Foreman became the new heavyweight champion. Ali fought relative newcomer Ken Norton on live television and lost.

Ali's Rumored Decline (02:40)

Norton broke Ali's jaw in the fight and a photographer caught him visiting Ali in the hospital. Though writers doubted Ali's abilities, he remained the most popular boxer.

Ali's Training (04:20)

Ali and Norton agreed to a rematch in 1973. Ali saw the earlier loss as a punishment from Allah and dedicated himself to better training and behavior.

Ali's Rematches (03:26)

In the fight, Ali returned to using fast footwork against Norton. Ali won in the final round and immediately turned his attention to a rematch with Frazier. The two men returned to attacking each other in the media.

Ali vs. Frazier Rematch (08:00)

Ali and Frazier trained hard for the fight in 1974. They were both fined $5,000 for getting into a fight during a promotional event. Ali won the match.

Ali's New Era (03:28)

Beating Frazier the second time created a new narrative in Ali's career. Ali and Frazier agreed to a rematch in the future. Ali wanted to regain his title by fighting Forman.

Ali and Don King (06:43)

The self-proclaimed hustler and convicted felon Don King was one of Ali’s promoters for the Forman fight. King had gotten approval from Elijah Muhammad, who had welcomed Ali back.

Credits: Round Three: The Rivalry (1970-1974) (02:50)

Credits: Round Three: The Rivalry (1970-1974)

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Episode 3: The Rivalry (1970-1974) (Muhammad Ali: A Film by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns & David McMahon)

Part of the Series : Muhammad Ali: A Film by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns & David McMahon
3-Year Streaming Price: $339.90



Muhammad Ali battles his fiercest rival, Joe Frazier, and the U.S. Government, as he attempts to regain the heavyweight title. He first loses and then defeats Frazier, but to become champion again, he we will have to beat George Foreman.

Length: 109 minutes

Item#: BVL274458

Copyright date: ©2021

Closed Captioned

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