Smokin’ Joe Frazier
Frazier and Muhammad Ali
Boxing World Mourns Its Soul of Sport: the pugilist known as Smokin’ Joe Frazier
How ironic the death of boxing great Joe Frazier was reported during a nationally televised Monday Night football game with his home town Philadelphia Eagles succumbing to the Chicago Bears with their playoff hopes at stake. One could say that without Joe Frazier, the Eagles had no punch left.
Muhummad Ali will forever be considered the media darling and the glitter of the sport of boxing, but ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier was the soul of the sport. One could argue that Ali would not have become the world icon that he is today without Joe Frazier.
Born in Beaufort, S.C., on Jan. 12, 1944, Frazier took up boxing early after watching weekly fights on the black and white television on his family’s small farm. He was a top amateur for several years, and became the only American fighter to win a gold medal in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo despite fighting in the final bout with an injured left thumb. He died on Monday Nov, 7th after a bout with liver cancer.
As news of his death spread like a forest fire, the boxing community took to social media to display their affection to a man who never got the respect that he rightfully deserved while alive.
However, his death on Monday night has touched millions, including a deep admirer of the sport’s history, unbeaten world welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.
On Twitter late Tuesday after hearing of Frazier’s death, Mayweather tweeted, “My condolences go out to the family of the late great Joe Frazier. The Money Team will pay for his funeral services.”
Mayweather has committed to such a gesture before, earlier this year paying for the funeral of a one-time opponent, Southland former world champion, Genaro Hernandez.
Frazier had struggled financially after his boxing career ended.
He made public appearances to earn income, such as one just this summer at Saratoga Race Track in New York to commemorate the 40-year anniversary of the first fight in his epic trilogy against Muhammad Ali. Those who were there were concerned by how frail Frazier looked. On Saturday, word came that he was receiving hospice care – near death. His last such public appearance was at Mayweather’s last fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Frazier won the 1971 bout – called the ‘Fight of the Century’ – at Madison Square Garden in New York, with an estimated 300 million watching at closed-circuit venues, according to his manager. The loss was Ali’s first, as Frazier knocked him down in the 15th round with his signature left hook and won by decision.
He lost a decision to the skilled Ali in the rematch, and then the pair engaged in a war for the ages, the ‘Thrilla in Manila,’ in 1975.
Legendary promoter Don King, who promoted Joe Frazier in the finale of Frazier’s phenomenal trilogy with Muhammad Ali, 1975’s ‘Thrilla in Manila,’ made the following statement from his South Florida home after learning last night of the death of his longtime friend: “Smokin’ Joe Frazier was the embodiment of what a great heavyweight champion and person should be. He was a great gladiator. When Smokin’ Joe came to the ring, you knew you had someone who was coming to fight. I was proud to have known and promoted him, and I was honored to call him a friend. The courage Smokin’ Joe showed in “the ‘Thrilla in Manila’—answering every Ali onslaught with an equally withering response—will remain in the hearts and minds of boxing fans around the globe forever. It was one of the most dramatic fights in history. Although the warrior inside Smokin’ Joe wanted to answer the bell for the 15th and final round, his chief second and friend, Eddie Futch, acted as more than a corner man to step in, and refuse to let him continue, so that he could live to fight another day, and smoke ‘em some more.
“One cannot underestimate the contribution Smokin’ Joe and Ali made to progress and change by creating the space, through their talent, for Black men to be seen, visible and relevant. The ‘Thrilla in Manila’ helped make America better. “Not only was he a great fighter but also a great man. He lived as he fought with courage and commitment at a time when African Americans in all spheres of life were engaged in a struggle for emancipation and respect. Smokin’ Joe brought honor, dignity and pride for his people, the American people, and brought the nation together as only sports can do.”
“This was it for both of them, the end of the world, a war that neither could lose,” the fight’s co-promoter, Bob Arum, said. “Ali didn’t let on that he was nervous. But I know Ali. He was nervous. There was so much tension in both of those camps. You can’t believe it.”
Arum, who will be promoting Manny Pacquiao’s mega fight on Saturday in Las Vegas, told the Sentinel; “Joe was a great guy and proud warrior. Even though I was affiliated with the Ali camp, Joe always treated me with kindness and I really appreciated that.”
Manny Pacquiao offered, “Boxing lost a great champion, and the sport lost a great ambassador.”
Mike Tyson, who, more than any other fighter, fought similar to Frazier, issued a statement – calling Joe’s passing a “sad day” … but saying “we should honor him by celebrating his accomplishments.” Tyson went to Twitter and wrote, “Frazier and Ali were quintessential, the apex of pedigree fighting in which each man would not give an inch until they were dead. Their era was competitive fighting at the highest level.” He added, “As a young fighter it has always been an honor to be compared to Frazier. My family and I are sending our sincerest condolences to the Joe Frazier family.”
Frazier’s nemesis, Ali, issued a statement saying “The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration,” said Ali, 69. “My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones.”
George Foreman’s longtime publicist Bill Kaplan said; “He was a very fun guy and he was a great fighter. The first fight with Ali, at the time it was considered to be the biggest fight promotion of all time and it probably still is. Ali and Frazier were both undefeated, Ali had been on a forced hiatus for three-and-a-half years, and while he was gone, Joe became what we knew as the undisputed heavyweight champion.”
British promoter Frank Warren added, “He was part of that era of the best heavyweights there have ever been. The trilogy of fights that he had with Muhammad Ali, the tough fight he had with George Foreman and the good wins on the way – he was one of the most exciting heavyweights ever. People talk about Mike Tyson at the age of 21 – Joe Frazier, when he was a young fella, was every bit (as good as), if not better than, Mike Tyson.”
Frazier’s business manager Leslie Wolff reflected, “If you look into the history of what took place, there is a lot of emotion. When you have a legend, people respond to a legend.”
Fellow Russian heavyweight champions, Vladimir and Vitali Klitschko, issued a statement; “He was a huge fighter, huge champion, huge personality. I didn’t have a chance to see his fights live, because in 1971…the Soviet Union professional boxing was forbidden. But we studied and listened about this fighter a lot, and after that, we had a chance to see the fights. It was a great lesson for all new generations.”
Legendary fighter Bernard Hopkins added; “About two or three years ago, everybody was asking me why I was fighting. Joe Frazier said you fight as long as you feel you can do it and win with dignity. That was in Joe. I was at Hand’s Gym while I was in Philly. I told him I could and that I was in great shape. He walked out of the place. I remember that. Those few minutes were like an hour. You’ve got to listen to him and listen to him clearly.
The words for Joe Frazier this week were much like his signature punches, in relentless great volume, but sadly, he is not here to appreciate them.
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