Next month (March 8 to be exact) marks the 50th anniversary of the historical boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, otherwise known as the Fight of the Century. Glenn Lewis, author and director of York College-CUNY’s Journalism program, covered Frazier for many months in 1980, in which he details in his new book Sparring With Smokin’ Joe: Joe Frazier’s Epic Battles and Rivalry with Ali (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, February 10, 2021).
“Ali and Frazier and their rivalry became sort of a touchstone for that era, for the whole 60s and 70s era,” Lewis explains to So Booking Cool when asked about the significance of the upcoming anniversary. “People who are too young to remember will see this as history. People who are a little bit older and could remember the environment around that fight will re-live this almost like current events.”
He continues, “But what people have to understand was how politically charged this whole thing was, and culturally charged. Literally, this whole country—and maybe throughout the world—people were literally taking sides. You were either for Ali or for Frazier. You were either an Ali person or a Frazier person; and it got to the point where it almost mimics the way in today’s society, you’re either a democrat or you’re a republican. You’re either for Trump or you’re against Trump. I mean, we’re seeing sort of echoes of that today, and it became that politically and culturally charged back then.”
Lewis has been running the award-winning journalism program at York College since 1986. He started at the Queens-based institution in the late 70s as an adjunct professor while being a working journalist. His work has appeared in countless publications including Publishers Weekly; Us; Seventeen; and Esquire to name a few. In addition to interviewing Frazier more than once, he has interviewed the likes of Caitlynn Jenner (when she was Bruce Jenner), Bill Bradley, and Reggie Jackson to name a few. He is also a professor at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. One of the reasons he writes, he says, is to engage with readers.
Check out the interview to learn more about Sparring With Smokin’ Joe including how Lewis’ coverage on the legendary champion was initially for an article; why Lewis chose to wait to write the book; what boxers can get out of Ali vs. Frazier and the book overall; what sports and non-sports enthusiasts can appreciate about the book; some of his career reflections as a journalist and author; the parallels and distinctions between creative writing and news writing; his thoughts on whether journalism has died or evolved; what motivates him; his advice for interviewing high profile people, and more! For more information, visit Lewis online.