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Ali-Frazier 1: Black Gladiators, White Promoters, and the Economics of Big-Time Boxing

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Abstract:

When African American boxers Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier squared off on March 8, 1971, more was at stake than the heavyweight championship. Ali, the so-called “people’s champion,” fought to reclaim the title he had lost as a result of his refusal to fight in Vietnam. Ali’s faith in the Nation of Islam, brash persona, and criticisms of white racism made him a potent symbol of 1960s rebellion and Black Power. Meanwhile, Frazier’s claiming of the heavyweight championship while Ali was banished, his friendship with white politicians, and his unwillingness to criticize the U.S. government made him a worthy foil for Ali’s politics. As a result, the bout between the two became billed as “the fight of the century.” One particular aspect of the contest interested—and often outraged—African American observers: the promotional payout. Early on, two white promoters, Jack Kent Cooke and Jerry Perenchio, bought the rights to promote the title fight. While Ali and Frazier earned a flat $2.5 million each (the highest purse to that point), the white promoters earned ten times as much. As a result, many in the black press called for a re-organization of sports that would better compensate African Americans. In doing so, they called attention to the exploitation of black athletes and entertainers, and envisioned a new future where black athletic excellence would lead directly to material gains for the broader African American community. My paper explores these frustrations and hopes, analyzing them in the context of the Civil Rights Movement’s waning years.
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Association:
Name: 95th Annual Convention
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http://www.asalh.org


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p435476_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Kaliss, Gregory. "Ali-Frazier 1: Black Gladiators, White Promoters, and the Economics of Big-Time Boxing" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 95th Annual Convention, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina, <Not Available>. 2014-11-27 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p435476_index.html>

APA Citation:

Kaliss, G. "Ali-Frazier 1: Black Gladiators, White Promoters, and the Economics of Big-Time Boxing" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 95th Annual Convention, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina <Not Available>. 2014-11-27 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p435476_index.html

Publication Type: Invited Paper
Abstract: When African American boxers Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier squared off on March 8, 1971, more was at stake than the heavyweight championship. Ali, the so-called “people’s champion,” fought to reclaim the title he had lost as a result of his refusal to fight in Vietnam. Ali’s faith in the Nation of Islam, brash persona, and criticisms of white racism made him a potent symbol of 1960s rebellion and Black Power. Meanwhile, Frazier’s claiming of the heavyweight championship while Ali was banished, his friendship with white politicians, and his unwillingness to criticize the U.S. government made him a worthy foil for Ali’s politics. As a result, the bout between the two became billed as “the fight of the century.” One particular aspect of the contest interested—and often outraged—African American observers: the promotional payout. Early on, two white promoters, Jack Kent Cooke and Jerry Perenchio, bought the rights to promote the title fight. While Ali and Frazier earned a flat $2.5 million each (the highest purse to that point), the white promoters earned ten times as much. As a result, many in the black press called for a re-organization of sports that would better compensate African Americans. In doing so, they called attention to the exploitation of black athletes and entertainers, and envisioned a new future where black athletic excellence would lead directly to material gains for the broader African American community. My paper explores these frustrations and hopes, analyzing them in the context of the Civil Rights Movement’s waning years.


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