When Joe Frazier defended his title against Jerry Quarry June 23, 1969, little did these old school fighters realized just how momentous this year was to be. One month later on July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong rang Houston Mission Control to inform them that “The Eagle Has Landed” as the Apollo 11 NASA spacecraft first touched down on the moon for “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
While Joe and Jerry were fighting that momentous night in Madison Square Garden@New York, last ditch preparations were being made for the first ever visit of men to the moon, a public project that sorta flew under the radar of sports and Hollywood crazy Americans still reeling from the 60s assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King, and presidential contender, Robert F. Kennedy, so while many if not most Americans knew of the NASA Moon Landing plans, putting a man on the moon was pretty much dismissed as pie in the sky and thusly set apart from the hustle and bustle of daily life needing tending for everyday survival’s sake.
This was Joe’s 4th title defense that he won in 1968 against Cus D’Amato trained giant Buster Mathis in Madison Square Garden, an epic, gate busting 11 round battle as hundreds of Black Power protesters supporting the deposed Muhammad Ali agitated their disapproval outside the venue.
Here Quarry looks on top of things, but look closer. Already his left eye is showing damage and soon his right eye would follow.
Quarry has been forced into the ropes at the ring corner. They may look stationary in a still photo captured in the moment, but Quarry has shifted off his back right foot as the anchor to deliver the counter left hook that demolished so many opponents. Meanwhile Joe has jumped off his own right foot for his own left hook to catch Jerry in the heart in this mutual slugfest waged in 8oz merciless gloves of the day.
Head to head phone booth action may have thrilled the fight fans, but is as tough as it gets for the fighters. Quarry has been forced into his umpteenth corner fighting for survival.
Here Quarry nearing another corner back to the ropes as Joe in the middle of the bob and weave style first perfected by Jack Dempsey that has proven so effective over these many ages of boxing.
Jerry was eventually stopped in the 7th round by the ring doctor on a busted right eye, but nobody ever forgot the nonstop, ferocious toe to toe action that night where the better man won the fight as boxing was intended on one of it’s best nights in history.
A month later, “The Eagle Has Landed.” Heady times indeed in the midst of national tragedies that nobody is immune to.