I’m sure many of you were as saddened as me this morning, in reading about the death of Heavyweight legend Joe Frazier.
From the time late last week when it broke that the 67 year old had liver cancer and was being transferred to a Hospice, I’m sure we all feared the worst.
The stories of fans wanting to donate their livers were touching, but I am sure like me you only knew it was a matter of time.
Frazier first caught my eye whilst watching the documentary Thrilla In Manila, which chronicled his 3rd fight with Muhammad Ali. The trilogy of fights with Ali will go down in history as one of the finest examples of guts and determination on both sides.
Lest we forget Frazier was the first fighter to ever beat Ali, and as ‘The Greatest’ recalled after their third fight – “That was the closest I came to dying.”
Frazier was an old school warrior who never took a backwards step, and faced life head on. He lived a breathed the sport of boxing, and had sure-fire pedigree having won an America’s only Olympic Gold Medal in 1964.
It wasn’t the Ali trilogy which fascinated me though; it was his brutal 2nd round knockout defeat by George Foreman in 1973. Significantly Frazier lost his world title and unbeaten record, but was knocked down 6 times by the giant Foreman. But it was the guts and sheer will power to keep getting up which astonished me.
This was one tough man.
Foreman was considered the next big thing at this point, simply walking through opponents; until he met Ali of course.
He had many scalps on his record including George Chuvalo, Joe Bugner, Jerry Quarry, Buster Mathis and of course Ali.
It was kind of heartbreaking seeing Frazier as a broke man, training amateurs out of his Philadelphia gym in the ‘Thrilla’ documentary struggling to speak well.
He also appeared in the first Rocky film in 1976, which many consider to be a partial template to Frazier’s boxing career.
Boxing fans are the most loyal in sport, so I am sure the name Joe Frazier won’t fade away anytime soon.