In 1971: Joe Frazier handed Muhammed Ali his first professional defeat in a 15 round decision at Madison Square Garden. It was the first of three classic matches between the rivals, and it was the first time in history that a fight featured two undefeated champs (Ali was stripped of his title for refusing to go to Vietnam). It was simply dubbed “The Fight of the Century.” It lived up to its billing, as the two battled into the fifteenth round. Referee Al Mercante later claimed that Ali (who predicted he would knock Frazier out in the sixth) gave away many rounds. Most who watched, however, found that it was hard for Ali to “give away” rounds when he was being mercilessly pounded in the corner by Frazier, who sent Ali to the canvas in the fifteenth. Ali survived the knockout, but Frazier won comfortably on all three cards. The fight was one of the most hyped events in sports history, with over 700 press credentials awarded (and another 500 turned down). There were even some celebrities who couldn’t get good seats, but Frank Sinatra smartly got the best seat in the house, snapping pictures on the ringside apron as a photographer for Life Magazine.
In 2004: The National Hockey League officially erased any doubts about its “The U.S. media only talks about hockey when something bad happens” status with one of its ugliest incidents in years. Wanting revenge for a hit by the Colorado Avalanche’s Steve Moore which knocked out star player Markus Naslund three weeks before, Vancouver Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi came up to Moore from behind and punched him on the side of the head. Moore was knocked out immediately, and he fell face first to the ice. It didn’t help that all 245 lbs. of Bertuzzi fell right on top of him. It didn’t help any more when three other players piled on top of them. Moore suffered a broken neck, a concussion and severe lacerations on his face. Three days later, Bertuzzi was suspended for the rest of the season (including the playoffs) and would not be reinstated until after the lockout in 2005. The atmosphere in Vancouver’s GM Place was ugly that night, as the Canucks vowed to get even with Moore (who did fight earlier in the game). But, as Rogers Sportsnet announcer Jim Hughson said, “the score settling has gone too far.” Bertuzzi later plead guilty to assault and received probation. Moore has also attempted to sue Bertuzzi for over $15 million in lost wages and damages and has still not played a game since.