The Greatest Boxing Rivalry Spanned Two Generations: Ali vs. Frazier IV

Boxing gloves in spotlight
“I’m gonna knock Laila out, no less than three rounds: one for the father, one for the son and one for the holy ghost.” —Jacqui Frazier-Lyde, daughter of Joe Frazier, preparing to fight Laila Ali

In A Nutshell

On June 8, 2001, fight fans turned on their TVs to watch Ali and Frazier step into the ring and duke it out. Only this time, it was Laila Ali and Jacquelyn Frazier-Lyde, the daughters of boxing’s biggest legends. This wasn’t just any ordinary boxing match. It was an epilogue to the sport’s greatest rivalry, a blood feud that had spilled over into the next generation.

The Whole Bushel

When it comes to sports, there’s nothing more entertaining than a good rivalry. There was Nicklaus vs. Palmer, Borg vs. McEnroe, and the Yankees vs. the Red Sox. But if we’re talking about blood, guts, and pure hatred, the greatest sports rivalry of all time has got to be Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier.

It was such an intense feud that the kids wanted in on the action. That’s why on June 8, 2001, the daughters of boxing’s biggest legends pulled on the gloves and stepped into the ring, thirsty for blood and hungry for a knockout. It was Ali-Frazier IV, with one woman eager to avenge her family and the other ready to defend her name.

To understand why these women wanted to slug it out, we have to go back to 1967 when Muhammad Ali was stripped of his title and boxing license for refusing to be drafted. During his 3.5-year absence, Smokin’ Joe Frazier became the new champion and one of Ali’s best friends. Frazier did his best to help Ali get back in the game and even loaned him money when he was short on cash.

But when Ali’s license was reinstated, things got nasty. The two agreed to fight each other, and Muhammad turned up the trash talk. He called Frazier ugly, dumb, and an Uncle Tom. Joe was hurt beyond words, so he let his fists do the talking. On March 8, 1971, Frazier won the “Fight of the Century” and knocked Ali to the mat in the 15th round with a vicious left hook.

Ali won their rematch in 1974, and their rivalry climaxed on October 1, 1975, in the “Thrilla in Manila,” widely considered the greatest boxing match ever. True to form, Ali was relentless outside the ring, mocking Frazier and labeling the ex-champ a “gorilla.” The fight was 14 rounds of pain, and Frazier threw in the towel just before the 15th round. It was just as well. Ali was too exhausted to get off his stool. “This must be what dyin’ is like,” the champ whispered.

But the hatred didn’t die. Ali tried to apologize to Frazier for all the things he’d said, but Joe didn’t want to listen. He went the rest of his life hating Ali. In fact, Frazier boasted that his punches were responsible for Ali’s Parkinson’s disease. “He got Joe Frazier-itis,” he laughed. And when Muhammad lit the torch at the 1996 Olympic Games, Frazier said he wanted to push Ali into the flames.

Fast-forward a couple of years and Laila Ali, Muhammad’s daughter, is making her boxing debut at 21. Before she started throwing haymakers, Laila was a businesswoman who’d opened her own nail salon at 18. She was a manicurist and part-time model, but everything changed in 1999 when she saw her first female boxing match on TV. Suddenly, she wanted to carry on the family tradition.

Interestingly, Muhammad wasn’t a fan of women’s boxing and tried to dissuade his daughter from taking up the sweet science, but Laila wasn’t giving up. She was confident she could slaughter anybody, and when she stepped into the ring, she knocked out her first opponent 31 seconds into the first round.

As Laila Frazier was shaking up the world, Jacquelyn Frazier-Lyde was working in Philadelphia as a criminal attorney. Once upon a time, this 38-year-old mother of three attended American University on a basketball scholarship. Later, she was a backup singer in her dad’s band, “Joe Frazier and the Knockouts,” and would go on to become the Outstanding Mother of the Year in 2000.

When Jacqui saw Laila on TV, she decided it was time for some familial payback. Nicknamed “Sister Smoke,” Frazier-Lyde fought her way through the middleweight division, destroying seven opponents before calling out Ali. “She Bee Stinging” accepted the challenge, and the two women started training. Jacqui exercised part-time at her dad’s gym, working out with the champ himself, while Ali trained for a month in Big Bear California at 2,000 meters (7,000 ft) above sea level. And in true Ali-Frazier style, there was a lot of trash talk.

Jacqui was way louder than her dad, and enjoyed goading her rival. She even said the fight would establish Ali financially, and then she would establish Ali horizontally. As for Laila, she wasn’t as mouthy as her dad, nor she was she overwhelmed by all the historical drama.

Finally, the two went at it in the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York. The match attracted some of the biggest names in the sport, like Ken Norton, Angelo Dundee, and Sugar Ray Leonard. The match was the first pay-per-view boxing event headlined by women, the arena seated 8,000 spectators, and Joe Frazier showed up to watch his daughter duke it out. Sadly, Muhammad didn’t make it.

When the fight began, the 22-year-old Ali was wearing white shorts, and the 39-year-old Frazier-Lyde was in a black skirt. Both women were undefeated, and the match lasted all eight rounds. While it wasn’t nearly as amazing or technical as the epic battles of their fathers, the audience agreed it was pretty entertaining.

When the announcer read the scorecards, Laila “She Bee Stinging” Ali walked away with the victory. History had repeated itself a third time, but Jacqui Frazier-Lyde didn’t let it get her down. She continued boxing for three years, and her only loss was to Laila. Today, Jacqui is a municipal court judge in Philadelphia, using her gavel instead of her gloves.

Laila Ali retired undefeated with an incredible record of 24-0. Since then, she’s started a family with former football player Curtis Conway and has had a pretty flashy career. She was on Dancing with the Stars, has hosted shows like American Gladiators and Late Nite Chef Fight, and even has her own line of beauty products.

As for their fathers, Smokin’ Joe Frazier passed away in 2011 from liver cancer. After hearing the news of his death, Muhammad Ali declared the world had lost a great champion. If Frazier could’ve heard that, he probably wouldn’t have cared. Shortly before his death, somebody asked Joe if he could ever forgive Ali. His response? “It’s not up to me to forgive him, only the Lord can do that. There’s no forgiveness.”

Show Me The Proof

The Kitchen Sisters: Episode 17
Bio: Laila Ali
Sports Illustrated: More Than Two Decades After They Last Met In The Ring, Joe Frazier Is Still Taking Shots At Muhammad Ali, But This Time It’s A War Of Words
ABC News: Ali and Frazier, the Girls Fight
ESPN: Like father, like daughter
CNN: Former heavyweight boxing champ Joe Frazier dies