FILE - In this Oct. 30, 1974, file photo, challenger Muhammad Ali watches as defending world champion George Foreman goes down to the canvas in the eighth round of their WBA/WBC championship match in Kinshasa, Zaire. Ali, the magnificent heavyweight champion whose fast fists and irrepressible personality transcended sports and captivated the world, has died according to a statement released by his family Friday, June 3, 2016. He was 74. (AP Photo/File)

They were young then and, oh, so proud. Three magnificent gladiators on a collision course with history, they fought fearlessly, battling each other on the biggest stages and in the oddest places.

Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. The names roll off the tongue like they were made to be together.

They've been linked together now for nearly a half century, united by the special bond created when two men step into the ring. Enemies, rivals and sometimes friends, they fought in a golden era for heavyweights.

When Foreman woke up Saturday, it was with the unsettling knowledge that he was the only one left.

"We were like one guy," Foreman said. "But this morning I realized that the greatest piece of us all was Muhammad Ali."

Ali, of course, was the greatest and the worst part of being muted by Parkinson's in his later years had to be that he couldn't keep telling his rivals that. Not that Foreman had to be told, because he was a convert ever since shortly after the night in Africa 42 years ago that changed everything.

Ali was supposed to be old, and he was supposed to be shot. It was going to be easy pickings for Foreman, a way to earn a big payday and get on with the business of fighting real fighters.

"I heard rumors Muhammad Ali was out of money and having a rough time," Foreman said. "If I took the fight with him he could make $5 million. I said that's good, I'll give him a chance to make a few bucks and kill him."