Smokin Joe Frazier (my cat was named after him) died today of liver cancer. Once the news came out he was in the hospice, you knew it was all over.
As a fighter, his greatness is assured. World Champion for 5 years, only losing to Muhammad Ali and George Foreman twice. The Ali fights, especially 1 & 3 are legendary for living up to the hype of two great champions putting it all on the line. His only other defeats were at the huge fists of George Foreman. Despite these defeats, Frazier deserves to be in the pantheon of great heavyweights. He easily beat Ali in 1971, inflicting his first defeat. Only Foreman destroyed him and yet, Foreman couldn’t handle Ali where Joe could. Styles make fights as they say.
Frazier was known for his relentless style, head down and grinding away at the body until his opponent lowered his hands to protect his ribs, only to be hit by one of the greatest shots in boxing, Frazier’s left hook. His style was no-nonsense, winning the hard way. Frazier was tough, took a lot of punishment but always found his way in.
I’ve followed and loved boxing from being a kid, (my punchbag is still hanging up). Frazier was well before my time but as read up on all the fighters from the beginning of the Queensbury era. (i even now know about bare-knuckle boxing going back a few centuries through a bizarre Nottingham connection). Frazier’s story is often overlooked in the Ali era. His modest, almost shy personality got lost in the media frenzy of an Ali fight. There was also always the dismissal of Frazier as the champion only while Ali was suspended. He soon put that to bed.
Joe always came across to me as a guy who was deeply likeable but very sensitive to being liked. He had a defensive mechanism which questioned others’ motives and I’m sure the Ali taunting must have hurt especially after he tried to help Ali during his exile and must have respected on some levels.
But don’t forget Frazier. Ali won’t. A fighter becoming world champion in a great, deep era equals great fighter in any era.