Boxer Joe Frazier dies

Joe Frazier (the son of a South Carolina sharecropper who punched meat in a Philadelphia slaughterhouse before Rocky) won Olympic gold, and beat an undefeated Muhammad Ali to become one of the all-time heavyweight greats, died on Monday, his family said in a statement. He was 67.
Frazier, whose liver cancer was diagnosed about a month ago, spent his last days living under hospice care in a Center City apartment.
Frazier, known as “Smokin’ Joe,” was small for a heavyweight, just under six-feet tall, but compensated with a relentless attack in the ring, bobbing and weaving as if his upper body were on a tightly coiled spring, constantly moving forward, and throwing more punches than most heavyweights.
“A kind of motorized Marciano” is how Time magazine described his style in a 1971 cover story before Frazier’s 5 million dollars fight with Muhammad Ali, the first of their three epic battles and the most lucrative boxing match ever at the time.
Fans could watch Frazier fight for minutes at a time and not see him take one step back.
“There were fights when he didn’t step backward. He took very few backward steps in his career” – recalled Larry Merchant, the HBO boxing analyst, who was a Philadelphia newspaperman during Frazier’s early years. “What made him good was not so much his punching power as his willingness to keep coming and walking through the fire, his toughness and grit — and willingness to train so he could take the kind of punishment a fighter take in order to get to his opponent.”
Frazier’s signature weapon was a destructive left hook, which he used to win his first title in 1968 and floor Ali in their first meeting in 1971. He developed his powerful left as a young child, growing up without electricity or plumbing in rural Beaufort, South Carolina. His father had lost his left arm in a shooting over a mistress, and young Joe became his father’s left arm.

Boxer Joe Frazier dies
Joe Frazier.

He defeated Muhammad Ali in the Fight of the Century, battled him nearly to the death in the Thrilla in Manila, then Joe Frazier spent the rest of his life trying to fight his way out of Ali’s shadow.
That was one fight Frazier could never win.
He was a small, ferocious fighter who smothered his opponents with punches, including a devastating left hook he used to end many of his fights early.
He was once a heavyweight champion, and a great one at that. Ali would say as much after Frazier knocked him down in the 15th round en route to becoming the first man to beat Ali, at Madison Square Garden in March 1971.
But he bore the burden of being Ali’s foil, and he paid the price. Bitter for years about the taunts his former nemesis once threw his way, Frazier only in recent times came to terms with what happened in the past and said he had forgiven Ali for everything he said.
Frazier (who died after a brief battle with liver cancer at the age of 67) will forever be linked to Ali. But no one in boxing would ever dream of anointing Ali as The Greatest unless he, too, was linked to Smokin’ Joe.
They fought three times, twice in the heart of New York City and once in the morning in a steamy arena in the Philippines. They went 41 rounds together, with neither giving an inch and both giving it their all.
In their last fight in Manila in 1975, they traded punches with a fervour that seemed unimaginable among heavyweights. Frazier gave almost as good as he got for 14 rounds, then had to be held back by trainer Eddie Futch as he tried to go out for the final round, unable to see.
“Closest thing to dying that I know of” – Ali said afterward.
Ali was as merciless with Frazier out of the ring as he was inside it. He called him a gorilla, and mocked him as an Uncle Tom. But he respected him as a fighter, especially after Frazier won a decision to defend his heavyweight title against the then-unbeaten Ali in a fight that was so big Frank Sinatra was shooting pictures at ringside and both fighters earned an astonishing 2,5 million US dollars.

Joe Frazier (67) the former heavyweight boxing champion who was known for his fighting spirit, powerful punch and intense rivalry with Muhammad Ali, died Monday night in a hospice in Philadelphia. He had been suffering from liver cancer.
As a heavyweight in all senses of the word, Mister Frazier was one of the best known champions of the latter decades of the 20th century.
While at the top of the heavyweight ranks, the elite of boxing, in the late 1960′s and early 1970′s, Mister Frazier, who went by the sobriquet of Smokin’ Joe, was known for his knockout punch.
In more than two dozen fights, Mister Frazier’s ferocious, brawling, slugging style sent his foes to the canvas for the full count.
Among boxing fans, and connoisseurs of popular culture, his bouts with Ali have become enshrined in memory. He was the first to defeat Ali in the ring. It happened in New York’s Madison Square Garden, long the world’s capital of prizefighting.
The contest went the full 15 rounds, neither able to dispatch the other, in what was described in the hyperbole of the sports world as the Fight of the Century.
In all they had four fights, and in one of them, the “Thrilla in Manila,” they outdid their previous efforts for the title.
In that 1975 slugfest, Ali emerged the victor when Mr. Frazier could not answer the bell for the final round.
In addition to his legendary battles with Ali, Mr. Frazier was also known for two fights with George Foreman. In the first, Foreman took his title from him.
But the rivalry with Ali was what he was better known for, a kind of face-off in the ring and outside it, that emphasized the contrasting styles and personalities of both men.
With a less flamboyant and engaging image than Ali’s Mr. Frazier seemed far less expressive, possessed of a stolid ruggedness of a hard-working man who let his fists and his dedication speak for him.

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