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On Wednesday, December 19, the Boston Celtics lost Ali-Frazier I by two points in Boston on the infamous last-second Tony Allen foul on Chauncey Billups.
On Saturday, January 5th, Doc and the boys bounced back to win Ali-Frazier II at Auburn Hills, largely on the strength of Big Baby Davis, who used occasion to show Jason Maxiell what valuable bench play is all about.
So who will win tonight's Ali-Frazier III?
To answer that question I turn to the real fight between two of the greatest heavyweights of their generation, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.
After losing Ali-Frazier I, Ali took the defeat as a learning lesson and began preparing himself for the rematch. Three years later, after beating everyone else boxing had to throw at him, Ali agreed to a rematch with Frazier, who had since lost the heavyweight title to George Foreman.
Ali hurt Frazier early, and built up a large lead on points, which he never relinquished, on his way to a unanimous 12-round victory.
Ali-Frazier III was held the following year. During the interim, Ali had defeated Foreman to regain the heavyweight crown. Ali and Frazier talked smack on what seemed like a daily basis in the weeks leading up the fight. Dubbed the "Thrilla in Manilla," the contest was a rare won that lived up to it's billing. Almost throwing in the towel himself earlier in the bout, Ali summoned the strength to take the fight to Frazier in the later rounds, and ultimately inflicted so much punishment that Smokin' Joe couldn't rise for the bell in the 15th round (or at least his trainer wouldn't let him rise).
So what can we derive from all this?
Well, the Pistons won the first bout, which would make them Frazier. This would make the Celtics Ali.
So, based on my scientific analysis, it looks like the Celtics should win tonight's game, as Ali won fights II and III.
One difference between the real Ali-Frazier bouts then and the Celtics-Pistons contests now is that the Ali-Frazier rivalry ended with fight number three. The Celtics and Pistons look like a lock to battle again in the playoffs.
So whomever does win tonight should gain a psychological advantage for any battles in May.
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