With the death of Joe Frazier on Monday, the world of boxing has lost one of its greatest ever champions.
Joseph William Frazier was born on 12th January 1944 and will probably be forever remembered for his three epic fights with Muhammad Ali during the early-mid 1970s, an almost unparalleled “golden era” of heavyweight boxing.
Like Ali, or Cassius Clay as he was in 1960, Frazier was an Olympic Gold medallist (in Tokyo in 1964... despite a broken thumb sustained in his semi-final bout). Frazier’s successor as Olympic Heavyweight champion was George Foreman and the 1968 gold medallist became the third member of a triumvirate of boxing superstars that thrilled the world courtesy of live satellite broadcasts of their various fights.
Joe Frazier defeated Ali in 1971... in a contest nicknamed “The Fight of the Century”, but lost the rematch in 1974 before eventually being retired on his stool by trainer Eddie Futch before the 15th round of the epic (and brutal) “Thrilla in Manila”. By that point, Frazier was barely able to see, yet was still willing to stand toe-to-toe with Ali, who would always claim that this was the toughest fight of his entire career.
Frazier was a relentless fighter; I’ve seen him described as a “brawler”... incredibly tough, with a superb left hook. Only one other boxer defeated Smokin’ Joe in his 37 fight career and that was Foreman... twice. Foreman was a brutal puncher in his prime and I’ve watched his second round knockout of Frazier in their 1973 clash in Kingston, Jamaica and the decisive punch literally lifted both Frazier’s feet off the canvas; it was quite remarkable.
Joe Frazier’s death of liver cancer at the untimely age of 67 is very sad, but it gives us a chance to remember a time when heavyweight boxing was dominated by three genuine legends... Ali, Foreman and the late, great Joe Frazier...
Rest in Peace Smokin’ Joe...
All my own work... almost.