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Smokin’ Joe

November 7, 2011

As it happens, yesterday I was at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, and one of the finest points of the visit was watching highlights of the Ali-Frazier trilogy.

Tonight back at home I hear that Joe Frazier has passed on at 67. As Michael Woods explains:

He went at it hammer and tong with the Greatest, the so called Greatest, Muhammad Ali, three times, and though Joe went 1-2, he was with Ali every step of the way, in New York in 1971 (that one was “The Fight”) and 1974, and in the Thrilla in Manilla in 1975.

Born in South Carolina in 1944, the youngest of 12 children, he will forevermore be intertwined with Ali, his stomping grounds of Philadelphia and the hellacious left hook which made many a man sip through a straw for weeks through a jaw wired shut. Frazier, who campaigned as a pro from 1965-1976 (with a single comeback fight coming in 1981), dropped out of school at 13, but didn’t let that deter him from becoming a master craftsman. His final record stands at 32-4-1.

In later years, fight fans were disturbed to know that he lived in a small apartment above his North Broad St. gym. Truth be told, while almost any boxing fan could appreciate Frazier’s bob, weave and blast style, his stubborn resolve to stalk his prey and make him pay, he wasn’t a cuddly creature who expertly cultivated a fanbase. He took Ali’s trash-talking to heart, and absorbed the blows of being called an Uncle Tom, and a gorilla, with less aplomb than he did the launches of the best and brightest heavyweights of the 60s and 70s. “Joe Frazier is too ugly to be champ,” Ali would say, and Frazier would seethe, and be unable to soothe himself, comprehend that Ali did what he did to build the fight.

His career wasn’t a lengthy one, but his legacy, as an athlete who was undersized in height but not heart, a fighter who’d eat three to get in postion to land one crackerjack launch, is immense. Rest in peace, Smokin’ Joe.

Amen. (In the video below, the moment where Frazier grabs Ali and pulls him off the ropes at about the 2:36 mark is classic.)

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 8, 2011 7:04 am

    Smokin’ Joe Fazier – when everyone on the planet knew who the heavy weight champion of the world was.

  2. November 8, 2011 8:43 am

    When you talk about great works of art, do not leave out Joe’s left hook. It may well be the most beautiful punch in boxing history.

  3. GENE permalink
    November 8, 2011 9:18 am

    I wish boxing could be good again. Manny Pacquiao is the only fighter worth watching these days. I couldn’t even tell you how many Heavyweight Champs there are now – or who they are ? … I think they’re Russians ?

  4. November 8, 2011 11:51 am

    R.I.P. Smokin’ Joe Frazier.


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