X-ray of Muhammad Ali's broken jaw from split decision.

On March 8, 1971, Joe Frazier broke more than Muhammad Ali’s historic winning streak in boxing - he broke his jaw.  The sellout throng of 20,455 at Madison Square Garden witnessed the cracking of Ali’s jawbone and unanimous 15-round decision later.

The night and event has commonly been labeled 'The Fight of the Century'.

When the verdict was announced, Ali, also known as Cassius Clay, accepted it stoically. He hurried to his dressing room rather than the post fight interview area and remained there for about half an hour. He and his camp then suddenly departed for Flower Fifth Avenue Hospital.

Ali defeated by Frazier

X-rays of his severely swollen jaw would eventually show Ali’s jawbones were separated by a quarter of an inch. However, at the time, Ali was actually released from the hospital after 40 minutes and left without any bandages.

Joe Frazier punching Ali
Even with an anonymous "lose or else" death threat before the match, Joe Frazier settled the world heavyweight championship bout in part by cracking the jawbone of the famous boxer in the second round.

Ali later said that in the heat of the fight he barely felt the injury. In fact, he actually claimed to have been troubled almost as much by his lack of fitness.

Some time later, Ali went through a 90-minute operation on his jaw and the surgeon who rewired it said: “I can’t fathom how he could go the whole fight like that.”

Ali xray of broken jaw

Even before the fight there was some worry that Ali would not be able to punch or keep Norton off because of his chronically sore hands. And in an omen-like thought, he was worried about whether his jaw would hold up or not.

Ken Norton was prepared, however. He used Joe Frazier as a sparring partner since Frazier had experience fighting against Ali. Eddie Futch, who had helped to plot Frazier’s defeat of Ali, also trained Norton. Futch’s plan for Norton was to jab Ali to the ropes and work from head to body.

Ali down on mat

In round two of the fight, (see actual video below) Norton’s jab forced Ali back into a corner. ;Norton then blasted Ali with a straight right hand, landing it precisely at the point of Ali’s jaw where he had lost two back teeth way before the event. Ali’s mouth was slightly open at the moment of impact. All of these factors combined with Norton’s power are what many considered to be what fractured the bone of arguably the world’s most mouthy boxer.

Angelo Dundee realized immediately what had happened, “I asked him (Ali) to let me stop the fight,” Dundee remembered. “He said, ‘no, I can beat this sucker. He won’t touch my jaw.” Ali fought for another 10 rounds losing in a points decision.

Frazier told reporters later Ali kept saying, 'I'mg God, I'm God.' To which Frazier would reply back, "You're in the wrong place tonight."

Cassius Clay xray
Sports Illustrated had written that while Ali was philosophical in defeat, his career had reached a crossroads. Legendary sports announcer Howard Cosell also felt Ali’s career was over: “It was the end of the road as far as I could see. So many of Ali’s fights had incredible symbolism, and here it was again. Ken Norton, former marine against the draft dodger in San Diego, a conservative naval town. It seemed Ali would never get his title back.”

Ali's broken jaw xray
The x-ray images here are from personal collections. Norton himself ironically signed one of the x-rays shown. The break in Ali's jaw is visible just above his autograph signature on the right. Not only is the x-ray signed by Ali, it's also ironically signed by the fighter who broke the jaw, Ken Norton. How did the owner of the x-ray get an autographed memento like this? The owner would only say that he had access to someone who had access to Ali's training camp at the time.

See the actual fight footage as well as interviews from NBC below.

Incredible x-rays of some famous people.

Click on any of the famous names below to see their x-ray, scan or medical image. Also read a description of the incident that caused the image to be taken.


















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