As it takes only moments to name truly great heavyweights – Joe Frazier should undoubtedly rank high on that short list of legendary fighters – it takes much longer to enumerate all of boxing’s failed challengers for its most sought-after title, from highly talented individuals such as Frazier to lesser known hopefuls who somehow got their shot but were soon revealed as far short of expectations and thus disappeared without a trace from history.
Smokin’ Joe earned much renown and glory through his iconic trio with Muhammad Ali and other elite big men; two of his early defenses of the New York State Athletic Commission “world” title included some obscure fighters such as Dave Zygiewicz and Manuel Ramos as opponent trivia entries.
Terry DanielsNot only did this fight to take place a night before Super Bowl VI – in which the Dallas Cowboys easily defeated Miami Dolphins 24-3 at now-demolished Tulane Stadium – it marked Frazier’s return to ring action since defeating Muhammad Ali in “Fight of the Century” on March 8, 1971. So, Daniels served as easy fodder for the first man ever to beat Muhammad Ali. Daniels was unranked until he wasn’t. Frazier’s people sought out an easy opponent, so Daniels suddenly popped into the rankings at number 9. You had to rank in the top ten to fight for the title. Daniels was a great football player whose career ended as a Freshman at SMU when he injured his knee. He turned to boxing, and his football career ended.
Daniels knew he would likely serve as an easy sacrifice to Frazier, yet the former football and baseball player from Southern Methodist University at least talked like he believed he could pull off an upset that rivaled what Buster Douglas achieved against Mike Tyson 18 years later. Thanks to Doug Lord’s savvy sales pitching techniques – including making promises he couldn’t keep – Daniels got his chance against Frazier at long last and actually delivered an upset more significant than what Buster Douglas managed against Mike Tyson 18 years later!
When Daniels was asked whether he believed he had the resources necessary to stop Smokin’ Joe, Daniels replied, “Not necessarily, but yes. I have done everything possible to ensure I’m ready. My physical fitness levels are at their peak; I feel strong, capable, and confident. So yes. I know I do.”
Daniels quickly dispelled any false confidence he might have displayed with a 29-4-1 (25) record against suspect competition and an overly generous No. 9 ranking when he entered the center ring and stared down Frazier in his eyes.
“I felt like shaking his hand,” Daniels exclaimed afterwards in amazement, perhaps at being awarded his career-high $35,000 payday (Frazier received $3.5 Million).
How Daniels found success was made possible due to Lord successfully pitching an idea similar to what Sylvester Stallone would pitch four years later, with Rocky Balboa facing Apollo Creed and becoming invincible.
“I told the fight promoters I had a white kid from Dallas who is friends with the Cowboys, who everyone knows is going to the Super Bowl in New Orleans,” Lord recounted. “They loved it. For us it was like living a fantasy world.” It was an easy 3.5 million dollar payday for Frazier after going through hell against Muhammad Ali, so it was a win-win for everybody.
Daniels still found it astounding in 2004, for an interview he conducted for the Dallas Morning News, even after he’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and traumatic brain injury.
“I would do it all over again,” he declared about the path that brought him into boxing and ultimately led to him playing David without the slingshot in pursuit of winning the title. “You can find many boxers without injuries; I’m glad I went through with it; it was quite an adventure!” Was it worth it? The toll it took on Daniels health was undeniable. Daniels career record shows he fought for almost a decade after getting his shot at Frazier; he was knocked out thirteen times.
And so it was that Terry Daniels became just another blip on the heavyweight radar screen. This empty promise enjoyed sniffing around some of the finest filet mignons before ultimately falling short of much taste himself. And it didn’t matter much that after Frazier battered him, he lost five more fights in succession and 18 out of his final 20 (perhaps believing his bold prefight talk or simply coming up short against more experienced opponents) until it eventually became evident to Daniels himself that he was merely too overmatched to succeed; in any event, he got an opportunity to shock and surprise the world… and quickly realized he was well over his head (despite initially believing his bold pre-fight talk and his success in doing just that).
Daniels said of the punches he delivered against Frazier that seemed to hit like bullets; they appeared as they hit like bullets hitting an armored ship. Daniels added, “I hit him fairly well, and he just stood there staring back at me as if nothing had happened – that was quite frightening!”
Terry Daniels is mostly a forgotten fighter, but on that night years ago, Daniels was in the spotlight all over the world as he battled one of the greatest heavyweights that ever lived, for the greatest title in all sports. It’s not too bad for a man who didn’t start Boxing until his football career ended. Just entering that ring made Daniels a winner. Please make no mistake about it, Terry Daniels gave it everything on that night; even though he came up short, losing the fight he showed the courage few men could ever have. So if you wanna call him a bum, what does that make you?
If you enjoy hearing from the legends of pro sports, then be sure to tune into “The Grueling Truth” sports shows, “Where the legends speak”
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