In 1975, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier met in the Philippines for their third and final fight. Ali won the "Thrilla in Manilla" after the beaten and battered Frazier failed to answer for the 15th round, ending one of the most storied boxing matches in history.
Ali was 33 years old at the time. He continued fighting for another six years. He lost and regained the heavyweight title from Leon Spinks in 1978, but he really was never the same after that fight with Frazier.
Three years after his epic battle, he was past his prime. By 38, he was a shell of himself and living off of his name.
Boxing fans should remember that before buying into the hype leading into the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight May 2 in Las Vegas. The event already is being hailed as a battle between the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, which says plenty about the sorry state of boxing.
Mayweather celebrates his 38th birthday Tuesday. He has a 47-0 record, including 26 knockouts. He has won titles in five weight classes. Pacquiao, 36, has a 57-5-2 record with 38 knockouts. Both remain great fighters, but they're not meeting one another at their best.
To me, it tarnishes the entire event. They should have met in the ring at least five years ago, when both were still in the prime years of their careers. Arguments over money and drug-testing prevented them from squaring off sooner. Now, they're living off their names in a sport lacking them.
And it's a very nice living.
Mayweather and Pacquiao stand to collect the biggest paychecks in boxing history. Mayweather will collect the bigger share of a 60-40 split from a fight that is expected to gross some $400 million in revenue when all the pay-per-view money is added up.
Forty years ago, when Ali met Frazier, it marked the beginning of the end of their careers. Mayweather-Pacquaio could very well mark of the end of their careers. But it makes you wonder: Is this the last big fight in boxing history?