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· Anon.
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By Mike Casey on April 30, 2013

It wasn't just a big fight. It was a major worldwide event. Yet it came and went with an anti-climatic whimper that left many important questions unanswered.

As a fifteen-year-old in 1970, I remember buying a copy of The Evening Standard in Oxford Street, London, and reading with great excitement that Muhammad Ali was coming out of his enforced three-year exile from the ring to fight Jerry Quarry in Atlanta. The sense of anticipation throughout the boxing fraternity was huge. Even Ali's detractors wanted to see him box again, although they stubbornly continued to call him Cassius Clay.

Could the former undefeated champion of the world shake off the rust of inactivity and topple the newly crowned king, Joe Frazier? Could Muhammad even beat the erratic but dangerous Quarry? Nothing could be taken for granted. More than forty years before, a three-year layoff had stripped the great Jack Dempsey of his "man killer" garb and turned him into a plodding and reluctant warrior against the fleet-footed Gene Tunney.

My loyalties were torn. Ali was never my favorite fighter, but wouldn't it be something if he could come out of mothballs and once again be the dazzling, fast punching athlete of his prime? Then again, I didn't want him to beat Jerry Quarry. I never wanted anyone to beat Jerry. There was something indefinably appealing about the up-and-down California kid they called the Bellflower Belter.

Came the big night, and the big balloon of excitement and tension slowly began to lose its size and shape. It didn't burst with a sudden bang, but leaked air with the steady hiss that comes from a pinprick. The fight wasn't a fight. Not a proper fight. It was all over in the third round. No spectacular knockout, no sudden and brilliant flurry of punches out of nowhere. The dreaded cut eye had come to spoil all that.
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