Former heavy weight champion Smokin’ Joe Frazier died on Monday night at 67-years-old. He died of liver cancer and had been being cared for in hospice.
Frazier won the heavy weight championship in March 1971 at Madison Square Gardens from rival Muhammad Ali. However, it was the on-going bitter rivalry between Frazier and Ali that defined his career. To the extent that Ali was glitz, glamor and showmanship, Frazier focused on being a great no-frills fighter. Ali won the championship back from Frazier in 1974 in what is said to have been one of the greatest fights in boxing history. According to reports, Frazier despised Ali long after the two were no longer fighting each other in the boxing ring.
Long after his fighting days were over, Frazier retained his enmity for Ali. But in March 2001, the 30th anniversary of the first Ali-Frazier bout, Ali told The New York Times: “I said a lot of things in the heat of the moment that I shouldn’t have said. Called him names I shouldn’t have called him. I apologize for
Asked for a response, Frazier said: “We have to embrace each other. It’s time to talk and get together. Life’s too short.”
When Frazier’s battle with liver cancer became publicly known, Ali was conciliatory. “My family and I are keeping Joe and his family in our daily prayers,” Ali said in his statement. “Joe has a lot of friends pulling for him, and I’m one of them.”
Fascination with the Ali-Frazier saga has endured.
After a 2008 presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, the Republican media consultant Stuart Stevens said that McCain should concentrate on selling himself to America rather than criticizing Obama. Stevens’s prescription: “More Ali and less Joe Frazier.”
Frazier’s true feelings toward Ali in his final years seemed murky.
The 2009 British documentary “Thrilla in Manila,” shown in the United States on HBO, depicted Frazier watching a film of the fight from his apartment above the gym he ran in Philadelphia.
“He’s a good-time guy,” John Dower, the director of “Thrilla in Manila,” told The Times. “But he’s angry about Ali.”
In March 2011, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the first Ali-Frazier fight, Frazier attended a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden and told reporters that he had not seen Ali in person for more than 10 years.
“I forgave him for all the accusations he made over the years,“ The Daily News quoted Frazier as saying. “I hope he’s doing fine. I’d love to see him.”
But as Frazier once told The Times: “Ali always said I would be nothing without him. But who would he have been without me?”
Rest in Peace Smokin’ Joe Frazier. You were one of ‘the greatests’.
See the video below for some highlights from the champion boxers career. Smokin’ Joe Frazier, Dead at 67.