On This Date in Sports February 16, 1970: Frazier Beats Ellis

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Joe Frazier wins the heavyweight championship with a fourth-round knockout of Jimmy Ellis at Madison Square Garden. Ellis had won the title by beating Jerry Quarry two years earlier after the championship was vacated when Muhammad Ali had bis boxing license suspended. Joe Frazier was the favorite and, after a rough first round, took over the fight. In the fourth round, he knocked down Ellis twice, winning when Angelo Dundee in Ellis’ corner decided he could not continue. 

Joe Frazier was born on January 12, 1944, in Beaufort, South Carolina. Not wanting to work on farms, like the rest of his family, Frazier moved north to Philadelphia at the age of 15. While growing up, he was fascinated by the boxing matches his father watched on their small television. Joe Frazier would imagine himself in the ring as he practiced on a heavy bag. While working at a Coca-Cola bottling plant, Frazier began his amateur career, winning the Golden Gloves, before winning a Gold Medal in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Joe Frazier proved to a be force in the heavyweight division and seemed destined for greatness as he won his first 24 career fights before earning a shot at the title.  


Jimmy Ellis always found himself in the shadows of Muhammad Ali as he was born on February 24, 1940, in Louisville, Kentucky. Ellis often trained with Ali and was chosen to fight Jerry Quarry for the heavyweight championship in 1968, after Muhammad Ali was suspended for his conviction for refusal to answer his draft call. While Ali was fighting in the courts to get the conviction overturned, Ellis beat Quarry and became the heavyweight champion on April 27, 1968, in Oakland. After beating Floyd Patterson, Ellis’ second title defense came against the unbeaten Joe Frazier, while holding a 27-5 record himself.


Joe Frazier may have been the challenger but entered the fight against Jimmy Ellis, a heavy favorite. Ellis came out to prove the experts wrong and had a strong first round, using a sharp jab to keep Frazier off balance. In the second round, Joe Frazier’s strength began to show as Ellis began to get hit hard and often. In the third round, Jimmy Ellis was nearly knocked down twice as Frazier continued pounding the champion. 

When the fourth round began, it was clear that Joe Frazier’s win was inevitable as he had a noticeable grin while reentering the fight. Frazier dominated the round, knocking Ellis to the canvas twice. The champion barely made it back to his feet when the round ended. However, upon getting to his corner, Angelo Dundee determined he was in no condition to continue and notified the referee that the fight was over. 


As Joe Frazier became the new champion of boxing, Muhammad Ali was on the verge of getting his license back. A year later, the two unbeaten champions met for the first time, with Frazier winning a unanimous decision.