To say that fighting at Madison Square Garden is a big deal for boxers is a bit like saying Cristiano Ronaldo is in awe of himself. This is a huge understatement.
Long considered the mecca of boxing, it has hosted a who’s who of boxing. Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and Muhammad Ali all fought under the lights there, while Anthony Joshua and Naseem Hamed both made their America debuts in the so-called “World’s Most Famous Arena”.
There’s a reason Dana White decided to run the UFC’s first New York show at the Garden with Conor McGregor who became the Big Apple’s “ two-time champion. ” Everyone understands the benefits of putting on a show in a place where legends are born.
While each incarnation has its own slice of history, it is the Third Garden that is perhaps the most historic given that it had a golden age for boxing.
It was here that Jake LaMotta fought and lost to Sugar Ray Robinson in 1942 in the first of six fights between the two, while Joe Louis, in his last fight, was knocked out by Rocky Marciano in 1951.
Jim Braddock, aka Cinderella’s Man, also graced the sacred ring, as members of the crowd, cigar smoke filling the arena, took their seats at ringside.
Where legends are made
It’s a New York landmark and has hosted everything from basketball to ice hockey to concerts, but Madison Square Garden epitomizes boxing glory nights.
MSG I: 1879-1890
MSG II: 1890-1925
MSG III: 1925-1968 (the first to be built away from Madison Square)
MSG IIII: 1968-present
MSG doesn’t hesitate to let you know that this place has a history running through its winding hallways and that it is impossible to talk about the place without mentioning Muhammad Ali. Where gladiators once had the Colosseum, “The Greatest” had Madison Square Garden to capture the applause.
“For a person to fight at Madison Square Garden they have to be a very special person,” legendary trainer Angelo Dundee once remarked.
Ali experienced many of his defining moments there, including the “fight of the century,” which took place 50 years ago on March 8, 1971 against Joe Frazier, a fight he lost after 15 grueling rounds of boxing.
The two raised $ 2.5 million for their issues, which was unknown at the time.
“Today the heavyweight champions would see that as a tip,” reporter Colin Hart, who was among at least 700 reporters in attendance, told talkSPORT. “It was really sensational.”
Joe Louis was applauded in his seat as he entered the arena, Burt Lancaster was on hand to provide full color commentary between rounds as a brawl unfolded between the rich and famous to be close to the ‘action.
Frank Sinatra couldn’t even order a ringside seat, but desperate to see someone else swinging for a change, he got himself a photographer accreditation so he could watch from ringside.
Ol ‘Blue Eyes was so good with the camera that one of his shots made the cover of Life Magazine. It was just his way.
“The fight itself was magnificent,” Hart continued. “I won’t forget the left hook that knocked Ali down on the 15th and final lap. How he stood up, only Tyson Fury will know because he did something similar against Deontay Wilder.
Former Wilder coach Mark Breland turned pro in the arena in 1984 on a card that incredibly saw Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker and Tyrell Biggs do the same.
At one point, however, there was a shift in power allowing Las Vegas to take hold and usurp the crown of New York City as the wrestling capital of the world.
However, it takes years to build this kind of gravitas.
“What I don’t think Vegas has are native fight fans,” boxing reporter Alex Reid explained. “There aren’t too many Vegas residents showing up at these events, so if you see someone like Miguel Cotto or Felix Trinidad fighting at Madison Square Garden, you get the Puerto Rican community in New York City to be. presents and supports them.
“There are more working class, blue collar workers and obviously New York is such a melting pot that there are also huge communities of Irish-Americans and Mexican-Americans there. So when a home fighter is fighting or someone they’ve adopted as one of their own, it creates a very different atmosphere.
Fight of the Century
It was the first time that two undefeated heavyweights met in the ring …
RESULT: Joe Frazier defeated Muhammad Ali via UD after 15 rounds
Entering the fight, the two had legitimate heavyweight title claims with Ali returning from years of exile after having his crown stripped of him during which Frazier ascended to the throne.
Ali was seen as the face of a more liberal America and was portrayed as the representative of the oppressed black people, while Frazier was forced to take on the role of corporate champion. In fact, he was also representative of black working-class America and would point out that he arguably had a harsher and poorer education than Ali.
According to referee Arthur Mercante, Ali tried his legendary mind games with only them between the ropes.
“You know, you are here with God tonight,” he asked Frazier, who replied, “If you are God, you are in the wrong place tonight.”
“It’s a much more earthy, and frankly, loud and more exciting game than what you get in Vegas.”
Obviously, history counts for a lot and the Garden still has its prestige.
“The atmosphere is so different from any other place,” New Yorker Teofimo Lopez said after beating Richard Commey in 2019.
“Not only do you feel the crowd, but you also feel the history behind it and the number of legends that have taken place on the big stage,” continued the lightweight champion.
“Madison Square Garden brings out another side of me. It brings out the best in me. And I’m grateful to call her home. “